DAVID GREENE, HOST:
We're going to hear now about the global effort to reduce hunger. In 1990, about a fourth of people on the planet were not getting enough to eat. Today it's less than half that. And a couple years ago, this progress inspired world leaders to gather at the U.N. and make a vow. By 2030, they would completely eliminate global hunger. Now there's mounting evidence that goal is under threat, as NPR's Nurith Aizenman reports.
NURITH AIZENMAN, BYLINE: Rob Vos has been tracking global hunger for years, first for the U.N.'s Food and Agricultural Organization, now with the International Food Policy Research Institute, or IFPRI, in Washington, D.C. And he says just a few years ago the mood among his fellow hunger experts was almost giddy.
ROB VOS: We can do this. We can end hunger within our generation.
AIZENMAN: And he notes that on the surface the latest data released just this month still looks good. Every year IFPRI puts out a Global Hunger Index that rates countries on both general undernourishment and child malnutrition. And worldwide the numbers have continued to improve at the same steady clip as always. But look deeper at the nation-by-nation stats, and some worrying signs emerge, like...
VOS: There's still quite a few countries' debts - are in serious risk of hunger or alarming stage of hunger situation.
AIZENMAN: Roughly half of all countries analyzed. In some, violent conflict is driving the food crisis. In others, it's weather disasters. Among the worst off, Somalia, South Sudan, Yemen and Nigeria, where early this year the U.N. declared that a total of 20 million people were at risk of famine. Last month brought another troubling milestone. The U.N. announced that the absolute number of people without enough food, which had been going down for years, actually went up to 815 million.
VOS: If we don't do a lot more then this goal of ending hunger will not be matched. Not even close.
AIZENMAN: Vos is hoping this accumulation of evidence will prompt action, like more investments to help small farms. Nurith Aizenman, NPR News.