What do we know about the hunger situation worldwide? Has progress been made or are there any setbacks? Using the Global Hunger Index, the global hunger situation can be calculated and assessed.
The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is a tool designed to comprehensively measure and track hunger and undernutrition at global, regional, and national levels. It is designed to raise awareness and understanding of the fight against hunger, and call attention to those areas of the world where hunger levels are highest and where the need for additional efforts to eliminate hunger is greatest.
Global Hunger Index 2020: Progress and Setbacks
The 2020 GHI shows that while the world has made gradual progress in reducing hunger on a global scale since 2000, this progress has been too slow. Hunger persists in many countries, and in some instances, progress is even being reversed. The global level of hunger and undernutrition is at a moderate level. It has fallen from a GHI score of 29.0 points in 2000 to 18.2 points in 2020. While this is encouraging, hunger persists in many countries, and in some instances, progress is even being reversed.
Of the countries for which data relevant to all four GHI indicators are available, three countries – Chad, Timor-Leste, and Madagascar – suffer from a level of hunger that is alarming (the second highest level on the GHI scale). Based on other known data, alarming hunger levels have also been provisionally identified in another eight countries. Hunger is at serious levels in 31 countries and provisionally categorised as serious in another nine countries. For 14 countries in the moderate, serious or alarming categories, hunger and malnutrition has worsened since 2012 – driven by conflict, poverty, inequality, poor health, and climate change.
On a global level, the prevalence of undernourishment has stagnated since 2015, and the absolute number of people who are undernourished was nearly 690 million in 2020. These levels are greatest in countries in Africa South of the Sahara and South Asia. Even in some countries without hunger crises at the national level, marginalised groups and selected regions face tragically high levels of hunger and undernutrition.
While the 2020 GHI does not yet reflect the impacts of COVID-19, it shows that the situation is already worrying in many contexts and is likely to worsen in the years to come.
Failing Food Systems
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the fragility of our globalised food systems, their inherent inequities, and their inadequacy to the task of achieving Zero Hunger. This year’s report focuses on the threat to human, animal, and environmental health posed by these food systems.
Although the commitment to reach Zero Hunger by 2030 is a fundamental ambition of the Sustainable Development Goals, our hard-won gains are under threat or being reversed. The 2020 GHI shows that multiple countries have higher hunger levels now than in 2012, and approximately 37 countries are set to fail to achieve low levels of hunger by 2030. Additional countries, for which data were insufficient to calculate 2030 projections, may also fall short of this goal.
Achieving Zero Hunger Means Reshaping Food Systems
“The 2020 GHI findings highlight the food insecurity challenges facing low-income countries as they battle multiple crises,” write Robyn Alders, Osman Dar, Richard Kock, and Francesco Rampa of Chatham House.
The focus of their special essay for the 2020 GHI is on how to make our food systems more resilient to shocks and protect the most vulnerable using an integrated approach to health and food and nutrition security.
“At this crucial moment, we must act to reshape our food systems as fair, healthy, and environmentally friendly in order to address the current crises, prevent other health and food crises from occurring, and chart a path to Zero Hunger by 2030.” Robyn Alders, Osman Dar, Richard Kock, & Francesco Rampa
Where are Hunger Levels the Worst?
This year’s GHI shows that many countries still require urgent attention.
Alarming levels of hunger exist in three countries, Chad, Timor-Leste, and Madagascar. Countries with incomplete data are provisionally categorised according to the GHI Severity Scale based on existing data and complementary reports.
According to this, alarming hunger has also been provisionally identified in another eight countries: Burundi, Central African Republic, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Somalia, South Sudan, Syria, and Yemen.
Several of these countries are experiencing unrest or violent conflict, which affects the availability of data as well as the food and nutrition situation in the country. It is quite possible that one or more of these countries would have a higher GHI score than Chad – the country with the highest 2020 GHI score – if sufficient data were available.
It is crucial to strengthen data collection to gain a clearer picture of food and nutrition security in every country so that actions designed to eliminate hunger can be adapted to conditions on the ground.
How is the Global Hunger Index Calculated?
The countries analysed can be categorised according to whether their hunger level is extremely alarming, alarming, serious, moderate or low. The higher the value, the higher the severity of hunger in the country in question.
The 4 Indicators of the Global Hunger Index
- The share of the population that is undernourished
- The share of children under the age of five who are wasted (i.e. who have low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition)
- The share of children under the age of five who are stunted (i.e. who have low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition)
- The mortality rate of children under the age of five