Hunger rates are still unacceptably high in 29 countries, calling into question whether halving world hunger within the next five years — a Millennium Development Goal set by the United Nations — is feasible.
The news comes from the Global Hunger Index, an annual survey published by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and other groups. According to the index, which examined 2003-2008 data from 122 countries, more than 1 billion people went hungry in 2009. (The food and financial crises contributed to that number.)
A bit of good news is that the global hunger index has improved by 24 percent since 1990.
Also, in 2010 the number of hungry people dropped to 925 million, based on UN Food and Agriculture Organization figures. But world hunger levels remain “serious” by Global Hunger Index standards, and regional variations are great. Most of the nations with “alarming” scores are in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
The report states that in sub-Saharan Africa war, instability, and high HIV/AIDS rates are leading to high child mortality; in South Asia, women’s low nutritional, educational and social status leads to higher numbers of underweight children.
Preventing Child Malnutrition
The Global Hunger Index uses three measures — the portion of people who are undernourished, the portion of children under five who are underweight, and the child mortality rate. Child under-nutrition is the greatest contributor to a nation’s hunger rating, making up almost half of the score.
“To improve their scores, many countries must accelerate progress in reducing child malnutrition,” says Marie Ruel, director of IFPRI’s Poverty, Health, and Nutrition division. “Considerable research shows that the window of opportunity for improving nutrition spans from conception to age two.” Prenatal nutrition is key, she said. “Early childhood under-nutrition perpetuates poverty from one generation to another.”
The index scores ten countries with the worst hunger levels. Rated “extremely alarming” or “alarming” are the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Burundi, Eritrea, Chad, Ethiopia, Sierra Leone, Haiti, Comoros, Madagascar, and the Central African Republic.
SOS Children’s Villages, which provides food, warm homes, and concrete hope to abandoned children in most of these nations, has been saving children’s lives for more than six decades.
photo credit: SOS Children's Villages
By Kyna Rubin, SOS Children's Villages