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Originally published October 14, 2009 at 10:44 PM | Page modified October 15, 2009 at 12:46 AM

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Record 1 billion go hungry, United Nations agency says

Declining aid and investment in agriculture caused a steady increase in world hunger for more than a decade before the economic crisis pushed the ranks of the hungry to a record 1 billion, a United Nations food agency said Wednesday.

ROME — Declining aid and investment in agriculture caused a steady increase in world hunger for more than a decade before the economic crisis pushed the ranks of the hungry to a record 1 billion, a United Nations food agency said Wednesday.

Unless the trend is reversed, the international goal of slashing the number of hungry people in half by 2015 will not be met, the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) warned in a report.

After gains in the fight against hunger in the 1980s and early 1990s, the number of undernourished people started climbing in 1995, reaching 1.02 billion this year under the combined effect of high food prices and the global financial meltdown, the agency said.

The blame for the long-term trend rests largely on the reduced share of aid and private investments earmarked for agriculture since the mid-1980s, the Rome-based agency said in its State of Food Insecurity report for 2009.

In 1980, 17 percent of aid contributed by donor countries went to agriculture. That share was down to 3.8 percent in 2006 and only slightly improved in the past three years, said FAO Director-General Jacques Diouf.

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