KATHMANDU: More than 100 million people have joined the ranks of the chronically hungry in South Asia in the fallout from the global financial crisis, bringing the figure to a 40-year high, a United Nation official said on Tuesday.

The report cited Nepal, Bangladesh and Pakistan as the worst affected areas.

The region’s poor, who have borne the brunt of the economic trouble, desperately need governments to spend more money on food, health care and education to alleviate the crisis, said Daniel Toole, a regional director for the UN Children’s Fund, or UNICEF. At least 405 million people in South Asia suffered from chronic hunger in 2007-2008, up from 300 million in 20004-2006, according to a latest report, which was published by the UNICEF.

“Without urgent, inclusive government response, the poor of South Asia, nearly 20 per cent of the world’s population, will sink further into poverty and malnutrition with long-term negative consequences for growth and development in the region and globally,” the report said. The document focused on the economic crisis’s impact on women and children in eight South Asian nations —Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

Nearly 33 per cent of South Asia’s 1.8 billion people eat less than the minimum recommended daily requirements. Three-quarters live in households earning less than $2 a day, it added.

The global crisis has taken a toll in the region, which has been battling various forms of internal strifes for the past few years. Pakistan and Sri Lanka, for instance, are in the middle of huge humanitarian crises.