Estimated 1 Billion Adults Struggled to Afford Food in 2009

by Cynthia English and Julie Ray

In 22 countries, more than half didn't have enough money to buy food at times

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- While the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization reported Friday that the recent volatility in food prices is not a sign of an impending food crisis, Gallup surveys in 113 countries in 2009 underscore people's vulnerability to such fluctuations. An estimated 1 billion adults worldwide reported not having enough money at times to buy the food they or their families needed. A disproportionate percentage of people in sub-Saharan Africa are affected.


Across the 113 countries surveyed, a median of 26% adults reported struggling at times to afford food for themselves or their families. Consistent with what Gallup has documented in previous years, the percentage of adults struggling in 2009 was highest in sub-Saharan Africa. At least 4 in 10 adults in every country surveyed in this region, with the exception of Djibouti, reported problems.

In fact, of the 22 countries where more than half of adults reported difficulties affording food at times in 2009, 15 are in sub-Saharan Africa. Struggles to afford food are not new to citizens in most of these countries. Food riots took place and there were fears of unrest in several countries, such as Cameroon and the Philippines, when global food prices surged in 2008.


In several of these countries, the proportion of residents reporting problems with affording food in 2009 remained relatively flat or declined since 2008. But the situation worsened by at least 10 percentage points between 2008 and 2009 in the Philippines and Ecuador.

Adults in Europe and the Middle East and North Africa region generally fared much better than respondents from other regions, with medians of 13% and 15%, respectively, struggling to afford food at times. However, residents in some countries in these regions were more likely than others to report problems affording food. At least 3 in 10 adults in Yemen (45%), the Palestinian Territories (43%), Romania (40%), Turkey (37%), and Albania (30%) said there were times when they didn't have enough money to buy food.

Bottom Line

Gallup's global surveys in 2009 suggest higher or lower food prices could mean the difference in whether billions around the world go hungry. The United Nations' recent announcement that the number of undernourished worldwide has declined so far in 2010 is a positive indicator for the future. Gallup will continue to monitor the ability for families to afford the food they need and will report on 2010 data next year.

Visit Real Clear World's Top 5s feature to learn more about the countries with the highest food insecurity.

For complete data sets or custom research from the more than 150 countries Gallup continually surveys, please contact or call 202.715.3030.

Survey Methods

Results are based on telephone/face-to-face interviews with approximately 1,000 adults in 110 countries, 2,000 adults in Russia, 3,000 adults in India, and 4,200 in China, aged 15 and older, conducted in 2009. For results based on the total sample of national adults, one can say with 95% confidence that the maximum margin of sampling error in 2009 ranged from a low of ±2.1 percentage points in China to a high of ±5.7 percentage points in Slovenia. The margin of error reflects the influence of data weighting. In addition to sampling error, question wording and practical difficulties in conducting surveys can introduce error or bias into the findings of public opinion polls.

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