The United Nations food agency has warned that world hunger is rising again, despite international efforts to reduce poverty.
Nearly 800 million malnourished people live in the developing world
The Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) annual report says nearly 850 million people go to bed hungry every night, mainly in Africa and Asia.
The number of undernourished people is climbing by 5 million a year, it says.
The agency warns that the UN goal of halving world hunger by 2015 is looking increasingly remote.
The FAO report, entitled The State Of Food Insecurity In The World 2003, calls the latest figures a "setback in the war against hunger".
It says that according to the most recent available figures from 1999 to 2001, there are 842 million chronically hungry people in the world.
The overwhelming majority of them, 798 million, are in the developing world.
While the numbers of undernourished people went down in Latin America, the Caribbean, and Asia and the Pacific region, they continue to increase in sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and North Africa.
The agency said it was time for nations to ask themselves why millions of people went hungry in a world that produces more than enough food.
"Bluntly stated, the problem is not so much a lack of food as a lack of political will," said the report.
FAO director-general Jacques Diouf said in the report's foreword that countries that succeeded in reducing hunger were characterised by faster economic growth, especially in the agricultural sector.
The report pointed to some encouraging signs, such as Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva's Zero Hunger project, which aims to eliminate hunger in Brazil by 2007.