33 countries face “alarming” levels of hunger
October 14, 2008
Thirty-three countries around the world have "alarming" or "extremely alarming" levels of hunger, according to the 2008 Global Hunger Index, a metric released by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), in conjunction with Welthungerhilfe and Concern Worldwide.
The index measures global hunger by ranking countries on prevalence of child malnutrition, rates of child mortality, and the proportion of people who are calorie deficient. The Democratic Republic of Congo scored the worst on the Index, followed by Eritrea, Burundi, Niger, Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Ethiopia.
IFPRI says that because the baseline data dates to 2006, "the rankings do not reflect the current crisis of rising food prices, but they do highlight which countries could be most vulnerable to the crisis."
"Most of the countries ranked in the Index are net importers of grains, and are therefore more likely to suffer because of rising food prices," added the NGO in a statement.
Joachim von Braun, IFPRI director general, says that slow gains in reducing hunger in recent decades may be losing ground.
“The world has made only slow progress in reducing hunger in past decades, with dramatic differences among countries and regions,” said Joachim von Braun, IFPRI director general. “Population and income growth, high energy prices, biofuels, science and technology, climate change, globalization, and urbanization are introducing drastic changes to food consumption, production, and markets. The current financial crisis complicates the picture: it actually brings some short-term relief for hungry people, as it contributes to reduced commodity prices, but the credit crunch makes access to capital difficult, including for agriculture, and that adds another obstacle for overcoming the food crisis.”
IFPRI recommends increased spending on agricultural research and policy measures to address the current food crisis.
“Priorities for action at the national and global level must address the immediate food needs of poor people priced out of food markets," said von Braun At the same time, national governments and the global community should begin to correct previous failures in agricultural policy by investing in agriculture and food production, setting up reliable systems for assisting the most vulnerable people in a timely way, and establishing a fair global trading system and a conducive investment environment."
Highlights from the report
- Overall Global Hunger Index scores have improved from 18.7 in the 1990 GHI to 15.2 in the 2008 GHI.
- On a global level, the most progress has been made in reducing the proportion of underweight children, with that indicator decreasing by 5.9 points since 1990.
- The ongoing food price crisis exacerbates hunger problems in many countries, cutting into poor households? food budgets, with particularly serious risks for undernourished infants and children under two. High prices also reduce the amount of food aid that donors can supply.
- As regions, Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia have the worst scores (23.3 and 23.0, respectively) on the 2008 GHI.
- Of the ten countries with the highest levels of hunger on the GHI, nine are in Sub-Saharan Africa. None of the Sub-Saharan African countries is amongst the ten most improved since 1990.
- Mauritius has the best score (lowest level of hunger) on the 2008 GHI, followed by Jamaica, Moldova, Cuba, and Peru.
- The countries that have made the most progress in reducing hunger since 1990, with the most improved GHI scores, are Kuwait, Peru, Syrian Arab Republic, Turkey, and Mexico.
- The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has the worst score (highest level of hunger), followed by Eritrea, Burundi, Niger, and Sierra Leone.
- The GHI scores of the DRC, North Korea, Swaziland, Guinea-Bissau, and Zimbabwe actually increased (worsened) since 1990.
- Eritrea and the DRC have the highest proportion of undernourished people, with 75 and 74 percent, respectively, of their populations being calorie deficient.
- India, Yemen, and Timor-Leste, have the highest prevalence of underweight children (a measure of malnutrition) of more than 40 percent.
- In Sierra Leone and Angola, more than one-fourth of all children die before the age of five, with child mortality rates of 27 and 26 percent, respectively, the highest of all GHI ranked countries.