Despite progress in reducing hunger worldwide, hunger levels in 44 of 117 countries in the 2015 Global Hunger Index remain ‘serious’ while it is found ‘alarming’ in eight countries. The Central African Republic, Chad, and Zambia had the highest hunger levels in the report, which was released today by the International Food Policy Research Institute, Welthungerhilfe, and Concern Worldwide.
Conflicts can be strongly associated with severe hunger, according to the report, which focused on armed conflict and the challenge of hunger in the main essay. The countries with the highest and worst Global Hunger Index (GHI) scores tend to be those engaged in or recently emerged from war. The two worst-scoring countries both experienced violent conflict and political instability in recent years. In contrast, in Angola, Ethiopia, and Rwanda, hunger levels have fallen substantially since the end of the civil wars of the 1990s and 2000s.
The report outlined some bright spots in the fight to end world hunger. The level of hunger in developing countries has fallen by 27 percent since 2000, and 17 countries reduced their hunger scores by at least half since 2000. Among those countries are Azerbaijan, Brazil, Croatia, Mongolia, Peru, and Venezuela. Some of the world’s poorest countries could not be included in the report due to unavailable data. As a result, the picture of global hunger may be worse than reported here.
Global hunger is a continuing challenge with one in nine people worldwide chronically undernourished and more than one quarter of children too short for their age due to nutritional deficiencies. Nearly half of all child deaths under age five are due to malnutrition, which claims the lives of about 3.1 million children per year.
This year’s essay sheds light on an unheralded achievement of the past 50 years. ‘Calamitous famines,’ those that kill more than one million people, seem to have vanished. “Conflict does not necessarily lead to hunger,” said Alex de Waal, executive director of the World Peace Foundation and research professor at Tufts University.
“The age of calamitous famines is over. Throughout history, these famines have decimated entire swaths of the global population and there was little people could do to avert the crisis. Today, however, global hunger is increasingly a result of the decisions we make. The adoption of international human rights norms, and the rise of globalisation are among key factors that may help us eliminate famine forever, Waal added”
Between 1870 and 2014, 106 instances of famine and mass starvation each killed 100,000 people or more. Despite a decrease in wars over recent decades, the number of violent conflicts and conflict-related deaths has recently increased from an all-time low in 2006.
“We are more confident today than ever before that we can end hunger, provided we do not rest on our accomplishments,” said Shenggen Fan, director general, International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).
“We must keep pushing, keep partnering, and keep innovating until nutrient-rich foods become sustainably accessible, available, and used by everyone in order to reach their full potential,” Fan added.
“More than 80 percent of those affected by armed conflict stay within their countries. They are the ones who suffer most from severe food insecurity,” said Welthungerhilfe president Bärbel Dieckmann. “We need to do more to support these people and to help restore their livelihoods. However, unless we address the root causes of armed conflict, the progress made in reducing hunger will not last,” Dieckmann further said.
“Conflict is development in reverse. Without peace, ending poverty and hunger by 2030 will never be achieved. The time has come for the international community to make conflict prevention, mitigation, and resolution a far higher political priority,” Concern CEO Dominic MacSorley said. “Diplomatic muscle and political will is urgently needed in equal measure to prevent the appalling levels of poverty, suffering and horrific brutality that seem commonplace in too many of today’s conflicts,” he further added.