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In politics, humanitarian aid, and social science, hunger is a condition in which a person, for a sustained period, is unable to eat sufficient food to meet basic nutritional needs. So in the field of hunger relief, the term hunger is used in a sense that goes beyond the common desire for food that all humans experience.

Throughout history, portions of the world's population have often suffered sustained periods of hunger. In many cases, this resulted from food supply disruptions caused by war, plagues, or adverse weather. In the decades following World War II, technological progress and enhanced political cooperation suggested it might be possible to substantially reduce the number of people suffering from hunger. While progress was uneven, by 2015 the threat of extreme hunger subsided for many of the world's people. According to figures published by the FAO in 2018 however, the number of people suffering from chronic hunger has been increasing over the last three years. This is both as a percentage of the world's population, and in absolute terms, with about 821 million afflicted with hunger in 2017.

While most of the world's hungry people continue to live in Asia, much of the increase in hunger since 2015 occurred in Africa and South America. The FAO's 2017 report discussed three principal reasons for the recent increase in hunger: climate, conflict, and economic slowdowns. The 2018 report focused on extreme weather as a primary driver of the increase in hunger, finding that the increases were especially severe in countries where the agricultural systems were most sensitive to extreme variations in weather.

Many thousands of organisations are engaged in the field of hunger relief; operating at local, national, regional or international levels. Some of these organisations are dedicated to hunger relief, while others may work in a number of different fields. The organisations range from multilateral institutions, to national governments, to small local initiatives such as independent soup kitchens. Many participate in umbrella networks that connect together thousands of different hunger relief organisations. At the global level, much of the world's hunger relief efforts are coordinated by the UN, and geared towards achieving the 2030 Sustainable Development Goal for "Zero hunger".

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