The advances have been uneven, however, with millions of people still experiencing chronic hunger and many places suffering acute food crises and even famine.
According to 2017 GHI scores, the level of hunger in the world has decreased by 27 per cent from the 2000 level.
The GHI report was jointly published by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Concern Worldwide and the Welthungerhilfe and made available to the Ghana News Agency.
Of the 119 countries assessed in this year’s report, one fell in the extremely alarming range on the GHI Severity Scale; seven fell in the alarming range; 44 in the serious range; and 24 in the moderate range. Only 43 countries scored in the low range.
It said nine of the 13 countries that lacked sufficient data for calculating 2017 GHI scores still raised significant concern, including Somalia, South Sudan, and Syria.
To capture the multidimensional nature of hunger, GHI scores were based on four component indicators—undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting, and child mortality.
The 27 per cent improvement noted above reflected progress in each of these indicators according to the latest data from 2012–2016 for countries in the GHI:
It indicated the share of the overall population that was undernourished as 13.0 per cent, down from 18.2 per cent in 2000.
Again, 27.8 per cent of children under five were stunted, down from 37.7 per cent in 2000.
Indeed 9.5 per cent of children under five were wasted, down from 9.9 per cent in 2000.
The under-five mortality rate was 4.7 percent, down from 8.2 per cent in 2000.
The regions of the world struggling most with hunger were South Asia and Africa south of the Sahara, with scores in the serious range (30.9 and 29.4, respectively).
The scores of East and Southeast Asia, the Near East and North Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States range from low to moderate (between 7.8 and 12.8).
These averages concealed some troubling results within each region, however, including scores in the serious range for Tajikistan, Guatemala, Haiti, and Iraq and in the alarming range for Yemen, as well as scores in the serious range for half of all countries in East and Southeast Asia, whose average benefitted from China’s low score of 7.5.
National and Sub-national Scores
Eight countries suffered from extremely alarming or alarming levels of hunger, except for Yemen, all were in Africa south of the Sahara: Central African Republic (CAR), Chad, Liberia, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, Sudan, and Zambia.
It said many of these countries have experienced political crises or violent conflicts in the past several decades. CAR and Yemen, in particular, have been driven by war in recent years.
From the 2000 GHI to the 2017 GHI, the scores of 14 countries improved by 50 percent or more; those of 72 countries dropped by between 25 and 49.9 percent; and those of 27 countries fell by less than 25 percent. Only CAR, the sole country in the extremely alarming range, showed no progress.
This year’s report provided a look at sub-national-level data on stunting, which reveal great disparities within countries.
Differences in hunger and nutrition profiles meant that, in most countries, a one-size-fits-all approach to tackling hunger and under-nutrition was unlikely to yield the best results.
Region- or state-level data, together with other information—for example, from focus group interviews—can serve as a solid foundation for good program and policy design.
Within countries in all regions of the world were wide variations in sub-national-level rates of childhood stunting. Even in some countries with a low national average, there were places where childhood stunting levels were high.
Inequality, Power, and Hunger
Dr Naomi Hossain, research fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, explores the nexus of inequality, power, and hunger noting “Most often, it is the people or groups with the least social, economic, or political power—those who are discriminated against or disadvantaged, including women, ethnic minorities, indigenous peoples, rural dwellers, and the poor—who suffer from hunger and malnutrition.”
They were affected by food and agricultural policies, but have little voice in policy debates dominated by governments, corporations, and international organizations.
Analyzing the role that power played in creating such inequalities in the food system and allowing space for all citizens—especially the least advantaged—to participate in decision making will help address nutritional inequalities.
The 2017 Global Hunger Index therefore presented recommendations that aimed to redress such power imbalances, as well as the laws, policies, attitudes, and practices that exacerbate and perpetuate them, in order to alleviate hunger among the most vulnerable.
National governments, the private sector, civil society, and international organizations must all act now to reduce inequalities if Zero Hunger is to be reached by 2030.