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.
The Global Picture
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.
National and Subnational Scores
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.