2018 Global Hunger Index: Forced Migration and Hunger
by Concern Worldwide, Welthungerhilfe
The 2018 Global Hunger Index (GHI) shows that the world has made gradual, long-term progress in reducing overall hunger, but this progress has been uneven. Areas of severe hunger and undernutrition stubbornly persist, reflecting human misery for millions.
Worldwide, the level of hunger and undernutrition falls into the serious category, with a GHI score of 20.9. This is down from 29.2 in 2000, equating to a decline of 28 percent. Underlying this improvement are reductions in each of the four indicators used to assemble the GHI: (1) the prevalence of undernourishment, (2) child stunting, (3) child wasting, and (4) child mortality.
Despite these improvements, the question remains whether the world will achieve Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2, which aims to end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture, by 2030. If progress in reducing hunger and undernutrition continues on its current trajectory, an estimated 50 countries will fail to achieve low hunger according to the GHI by 2030.
Hunger varies enormously by region. The 2018 GHI scores of South Asia and Africa south of the Sahara, at 30.5 and 29.4, respectively, reflect serious levels of hunger. These scores stand in stark contrast to those 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, where scores range from 7.3 to 13.2, indicating low or moderate hunger levels.
In both South Asia and Africa south of the Sahara, the rates of undernourishment, child stunting, child wasting, and child mortality are unacceptably high. Since 2000, the rate of stunting in South Asia has fallen from approximately half of all children to over a third, but this still constitutes the highest regional child stunting rate worldwide.
Furthermore, South Asia’s child wasting rate has slightly increased since 2000. In terms of undernourishment and child mortality, Africa south of the Sahara has the highest rates. Conflict and poor climatic conditions—both separately and together—have exacerbated undernourishment there. Conflict also compromises children’s nutritional status, and the impact of conflict on child mortality is starkly evident: the 10 countries with the world’s highest under-five mortality rates are all in Africa south of the Sahara, and 7 of these are considered fragile states.
Hunger and undernutrition are still much too high in dozens of countries.
According to the 2018 GHI, one country, the Central African Republic (CAR), suffers from a level of hunger that is extremely alarming.
Six countries—Chad, Haiti, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, Yemen, and Zambia—suffer from levels that are alarming. Forty-five countries out of the 119 countries that were ranked have serious levels of hunger.
Still, there is cause for optimism. This year’s GHI includes 27 countries with moderate levels of hunger and 40 countries with low levels of hunger.
It is important to note that regional and national scores can mask substantial variation within country borders. Latin America, for example, has one of the lowest regional hunger levels, yet stunting levels in Guatemala’s departments range from 25 percent to a staggering 70 percent.
In other cases, such as Burundi, the areas with the lowest stunting levels are predominantly urban in nature (such as national capitals), and are outliers relative to other parts of the country.
Forced Migration and Hunger
In this year’s essay, Laura Hammond examines forced migration and hunger—two closely intertwined challenges that affect some of the poorest and most conflict-ridden regions of the world. Globally, there are an estimated 68.5 million displaced people, including 40.0 million internally displaced people, 25.4 million refugees, and 3.1 million asylum seekers.
For these people, hunger may be both a cause and a consequence of forced migration. Support for food-insecure displaced people needs to be improved in four key areas: recognizing and addressing hunger and displacement as political problems; adopting more holistic approaches to protracted displacement settings involving development support; providing support to food-insecure displaced people in their regions of origin; and recognizing that the resilience of displaced people is never entirely absent and should be the basis for providing support.
The 2018 Global Hunger Index presents recommendations for providing a more effective and holistic response to forced migration and hunger. These include focusing on those countries and groups of people who need the most support, providing long-term solutions for displaced people, and engaging in greater responsibility sharing at an international level.
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State of Food Security in World: 821 million people hungry, 150 million children stunted
by WFP, FAO, WHO, IFAD, UNICEF
New evidence continues to signal that the number of hungry people in the world is growing, reaching 821 million in 2017 or one in every nine people, according to The State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World 2018 released today. Limited progress is also being made in addressing the multiple forms of malnutrition, ranging from child stunting to adult obesity, putting the health of hundreds of millions of people at risk.
Hunger has been on the rise over the past three years, returning to levels from a decade ago. This reversal in progress sends a clear warning that more must be done and urgently if the Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger is to be achieved by 2030.
The situation is worsening in South America and most regions of Africa, while the decreasing trend in undernourishment that characterized Asia is slowing down significantly.
“We now have three years of global hunger or chronic deprivation”, Cindy Holleman, Senior Economist at FAO, told UN News in an interview on Tuesday. “The levels of hunger are now where they were, almost a decade ago.”
The report emphasizes that climate variability and extremes are already undermining food production and, if action to mitigate disaster risk reduction and preparedness is not taken, the situation will only get worse as temperatures are expected to continue to rise and become more extreme.
“We must also keep in mind that the underlying factors or causes of hunger are also poverty, and inequalities and marginalization”, Ms. Holleman added, stressing that, as the world works to achieve Zero Hunger by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals, addressing these root causes will be as critical as implementing peace and climate resilience initiatives.
The annual UN report found that climate variability affecting rainfall patterns and agricultural seasons, and climate extremes such as droughts and floods, are among the key drivers behind the rise in hunger, together with conflict and economic slowdowns.
“The alarming signs of increasing food insecurity and high levels of different forms of malnutrition are a clear warning that there is considerable work to be done to make sure we ‘leave no one behind’ on the road towards achieving the SDG goals on food security and improved nutrition,” the heads of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), the UN Children''s Fund (UNICEF), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the World Health Organization (WHO) warned in their joint foreword to the report.
“If we are to achieve a world without hunger and malnutrition in all its forms by 2030, it is imperative that we accelerate and scale up actions to strengthen the resilience and adaptive capacity of food systems and people’s livelihoods in response to climate variability and extremes,” the leaders said.
The impact of climate variability and extremes on hunger
Changes in climate are already undermining production of major crops such as wheat, rice and maize in tropical and temperate regions and, without building climate resilience, this is expected to worsen as temperatures increase and become more extreme.
Analysis in the report shows that the prevalence and number of undernourished people is higher in countries highly exposed to climate extremes. Undernourishment is higher again when exposure to climate extremes is compounded by a high proportion of the population depending on agricultural systems that are highly sensitive to rainfall and temperature variability.
Temperature anomalies over agricultural cropping areas continued to be higher than the long-term mean throughout 2011–2016, leading to more frequent spells of extreme heat in the last five years.
The nature of rainfall seasons is also changing, such as the late or early start of rainy seasons and the unequal distribution of rainfall within a season.
The harm to agricultural production contributes to shortfalls in food availability, with knock-on effects causing food price hikes and income losses that reduce people’s access to food.
Slow progress on ending all forms of malnutrition
Poor progress has been made in reducing child stunting, the report highlights, with nearly 151 million children aged under five too short for their age due to malnutrition in 2017. Globally, Africa and Asia accounted for 39 percent and 55 percent of all stunted children, respectively.
The prevalence of child wasting remains extremely high in Asia where almost one in 10 children under five has low weight for their height, compared to just one in 100 in Latin America and the Caribbean.
The report describes as “shameful” the fact that one in three women of reproductive age globally is affected by anaemia, which has significant health and development consequences for both women and their children.
No region has shown a decline in anaemia among women of reproductive age, and the prevalence in Africa and Asia is nearly three times higher than in North America.
The other side of hunger: obesity on the rise
Adult obesity is worsening, and more than one in eight adults in the world is obese. The problem is most significant in North America, but Africa and Asia are also experiencing an upward trend, the report shows.
Undernutrition and obesity coexist in many countries, and can even be seen side by side in the same household. Poor access to nutritious food due to its higher cost, the stress of living with food insecurity, and physiological adaptations to food deprivation help explain why food-insecure families may have a higher risk of overweight and obesity.
Call for action
The report calls for implementing and scaling up interventions aimed at guaranteeing access to nutritious foods and breaking the inter-generational cycle of malnutrition. Policies must pay special attention to groups who are the most vulnerable to the harmful consequences of poor food access: infants, children aged under five, school-aged children, adolescent girls, and women.
At the same time, a sustainable shift must be made towards nutrition-sensitive agriculture and food systems that can provide safe and high-quality food for all.
The report also calls for greater efforts to build climate resilience through policies that promote climate change adaptation and mitigation, and disaster risk reduction.
A few key facts and figures:
Number of hungry people in the world in 2017: 821 million or 1 in every 9 people - in Asia 515 million; in Africa: 256.5 million; in Latin America and the Caribbean 39 million
Children under 5 affected by stunting (low height-for-age): 150.8 million (22.2%). Children under 5 affected by wasting (low weight-for-height): 50.5 million (7.5%)
Percentage of women of reproductive age affected by anaemia: 32.8%
The report is part of tracking progress towards Sustainable Development Goal 2 - Zero Hunger, which aims to end hunger, promote food security and end all forms of malnutrition by 2030. The report also tracks progress on six of the seven World Health Assembly global nutrition targets.
Last year’s report observed that three factors are behind the recent rise in hunger: conflict, climate and economic slowdowns, and provided an in-depth study of the role of conflict. This year’s report focuses on the role of climate variability and extremes to explain the observed trends in food security.
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