These Countries Have the Highest Levels of Hunger

Dozens of countries have “serious” or “alarming” levels of hunger, according to a new report, even as malnutrition is declining around the world.

Published on Tuesday, the Global Hunger Index, a report from Welthungerhilfe, the International Food Policy Research Institute and Concern Worldwide, looks at levels of hunger in developing countries. Fifty countries have “serious” or “alarming” levels of hunger, and most of the seven countries with “alarming” scores are in sub-Saharan Africa. 

Overall, hunger levels in the developing world have decline 29 percent since 2000, but progress has been uneven. Globally, the lack of food “remains distressingly high, with 795 million people still facing hunger, roughly one in four children affected by stunting, and eight percent of children affected by wasting,” the report says. While some regions, including Latin America and the Caribbean, have low to moderate levels of hunger, there can be large disparities between countries. The Caribbean island of Haiti has “alarming” levels of hunger.

Chad and the Central African Republic have the highest levels of hunger in this year’s index, in addition to some of the lowest percentages of hunger reduction in the past two decades, according to the report. In the Central African Republic, 48 percent of the population is undernourished, while that number is 34 percent in Chad.

“The examples of these countries underscore that despite significant progress in reducing hunger globally, violent conflict, poor governance, and climate-related impacts on agriculture ensure that hunger continues to plague our planet and requires a transformative plan of action,” the report says.

hunger_index_1010A nurse feeds a newborn baby in a special care unit at a hospital in Sanaa, Yemen July 30, 2015. Yemen is one of seven countries with "alarming" levels of hunger, according to the new Global Hunger Index. Khaled Abdullah/Reuters

To examine levels of hunger in developing countries, the report looks at malnourishment, child wasting, child stunting and child mortality. Children are described in the report as “a particularly vulnerable subset of the population for whom a lack of dietary energy, protein or micronutrients (essential vitamins and minerals) leads to a high risk of illness, poor physical and cognitive development, or death.”

No countries are classified in the most severe “extremely alarming” category of hunger in this year’s index. However, because 13 countries couldn’t be classified due to insufficient data, the report says that “this high level of hunger quite possibly could still exist.” Of those 13 countries, ten have been identified through other sources as being causes for concern: Burundi, the Comoros, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Libya, Papua New Guinea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Syria.

In Syria, now in its sixth year of conflict, starvation is being used as a weapon of war that amounts to a war crime, according the United Nations. Earlier this year, the U.N. said it received “credible reports of people dying” in the Syrian town Madaya. Malnutrition and psychological stress in Madaya has resulted in an increased rate of miscarriages over the past six months, according to doctors. In Yemen, which has been mired in war since March 2015, more than a quarter of the population suffers from malnutrition, while 16 percentage of children under 5 experience wasting and nearly half experience stunting.

The report, in its 11th iteration this year, comes months after the U.N. adopted the Sustainable Development Goals, a set of 17 targets to be reached by the end of 2030. To achieve the second goal of ending hunger around the world, “it is essential to identify the regions, countries, and populations that are most vulnerable to hunger and undernutrition, and accelerate progress in these areas,” the report said.

While the U.S. in not included in the Global Hunger Index, 13.5 percent of Americans were living in poverty in 2015 and nearly all of them lived in food-insecure households, according to Feeding America. In Mississippi, more than one-fifth of all households were food insecure between 2013 and 2015.

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