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Index Tracks Hunger Indicators

The world has made little progress in reducing hunger since 1990, a new report said on Oct. 14, pointing to 29 countries with alarming levels of malnutrition, mainly in Africa and South Asia.

Those countries also are most vulnerable to the impact of historically high food and energy prices, as well as economic recession – factors that the International Food Policy Research Institute said are not yet captured in the data used to compile its annual hunger index.

“After decades of slow progress in combating global hunger, the number of malnourished people is now rising as a result of recent events,” said the report, published by IFPRI, German aid group Welthungerhilfe and Irish aid group Concern Worldwide.

“The current situation of food crisis, financial crunch and global recession has further undermined the food security and the livelihoods of the poor,” the report said.

Using data up until 2007, the index scores three leading indicators of hunger: the proportion of people who are undernourished, the prevalence of child malnutrition, and child mortality rates.

Since 1990, the global index has improved to 15.2 from 20.0. A score under five is viewed as low, while 20 is scored as “alarming” and over 30 is designated “extremely alarming.”

Sub-Saharan Africa had a regional index of 22.1, while South Asia scored 23, mainly because of widespread child malnutrition, the report said.

More than 40 per cent of children are underweight in Bangladesh and India, IFPRI said.

Since 1990, some countries dramatically improved their scores, the report said, including Vietnam, Brazil, Saudi Arabia and Mexico.

But 13 countries have seen hunger levels rise, the report said, noting the Democratic Republic of Congo scored the worst at 39.1, followed by Burundi, Eritrea, Sierra Leone, Chad and Ethiopia, each with scores above 30.

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