About 21% of Europe's population lives in poverty, earning less than $2 a day and 5% is affected by food insecurity, the United Nations' food agency says.
The level of poverty is lower in Europe than in other regions but the significance lies in the fact that the region encompasses some of the richest countries, the Food and Agriculture Organisation reported at its regional conference in New York on Wednesday.
"Special attention needs to be paid to the poorest countries of the region, especially those of southeast Europe and Commonwealth of Independent States to help resolve their problem of food insecurity and rural poverty," FAO Director-General Dr Jacques Diouf said at the conference.
Factors fuelling poverty in the past 15 years include the difficulties associated with moving from a centrally planned economy to market economy, declining production in agriculture and the agrifood sector and resulting unemployment, it said.
In Balkans, the situation has been further exacerbated by conflict, the agency pointed out.
The number of undernourished people in the countries in transition grew from 24 to 34 million between 1993-94 and 1999-2000, according FAO's 2003 report on State of Food Insecurity.
Nearly all of the increase in undernourishment took place in CIS, where the number of hungry people rose from 20.6 to 28.8 million.