Countries that suffer protracted or repeated violent conflict may experience much higher levels of undernutrition.
Photo: © Brockmann/Welthungerhilfe

Peace needed to combat hunger

On World Food Day, Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme, called on the global community to take action so that the world achieves zero hunger. However, this will not be possible without a peaceful world, as this year’s Global Hunger Index once again shows.

An estimated 172 billion people are threatened by conflicts throughout the world. The new Global Hunger Index (GHI), traditionally presented by the International Food Policy Institute (IFPRI), based in Washington DC, USA, together with the Welthungerhilfe and Concern Worldwide organisations ahead of World Food Day, demonstrates the close link between these conflicts and hunger. As the report reveals, today’s famines are complex humanitarian emergencies caused mostly by armed conflict. This becomes particularly apparent in the current wars in which ethnic militia, paramilitaries, mercenaries as well as international forces are involved alongside national armies and rebel forces. Countries that suffer protracted or repeated violent conflict may experience much higher levels of undernutrition, reduced access to education, and much higher infant mortality than stable countries of similar economic standing. Relief organisations have hardly any access to the victims, and a long-term solution is problematic.

“Conflicts such as those in Syria, Iraq or South Sudan are the biggest drivers of hunger,” said Welthungerhilfe President Bärbel Dieckmann, speaking at the presentation ceremony of the GHI in Berlin, Germany. “More than 80 per cent of the refugees world-wide stay in their home countries or neighbouring countries. They are the ones who suffer most from violence and the hopeless situation that they are in. Unnoticed by the global public, they have to struggle day by day for food, water and healthcare. Only if the causes of armed conflicts like those in Syria are eliminated will we be able to defeat hunger in the long term.”

The levels of hunger are alarming or serious in 52 countries, with those in south-Saharan Africa and South Asia being worst affected. Most of the eight countries with alarming GHI scores are in Africa South of Sahara. The countries with the highest 2015 GHI scores, and therefore the highest hunger levels, were the Central African Republic, Chad, and Zambia.

However, the Global Hunger Index 2015 also shows positive developments. Since 2000, the developing countries have made significant progress in combating hunger. In all, the index values for the hunger situation in these countries have dropped by 27 per cent. Seventeen countries were able to reduce their hunger value by at least 50 per cent, among them Azerbaijan, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Brazil, Croatia, Kyrgyz Republic, Latvia, Mongolia, Peru, Ukraine, and Venezuela. Countries like Angola, Ethiopia and Rwanda, which experienced bloody civil wars just 20 years ago, are also examples of how big efforts can change the food situation.

“Today we are more confident than ever that we can beat hunger if we do not rest on our laurels,” said Klaus von Grebmer of IFPRI. “We need innovative ideas to enable everyone to have a sustainably sufficient and balanced diet.” Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme (WFP), appealed in her speech marking World Food Day in Milan, Italy, to the entire global community to take action and help to ensure that the world achieves zero hunger. She emphasised that, according to the UN State of Food Insecurity in the World 2015 report, 795 million people suffer from hunger today, down 167 million from a decade ago. To speed up progress and save countless lives and build stronger futures by 2030, it would take an annual investment of USD 265 billion – about 0.3 per cent of the global Gross Domestic Product. “By investing in ending global hunger, we would see a significant rise in global prosperity,” Cousin stated.

The Global Hunger Index has been published for the tenth time, and establishes the hunger situation as it is in 117 countries in 2015. The indicators to measure hunger have been improved this year. Instead of assessing the share of underweight children, the share of those stunted and wasted is examined. The former is a sign of chronic undernourishment, while the latter indicates acute undernourishment.  The proportion of undernourished people and child mortality are referred to as further factors. 

(Welthungerhilfe/IPFRI/WFP/sri)

More information and a download of the Global Hunger Index (GHI) entitled “Armed conflict and the challenge of hunger” is available in four languages:

English

French

German

Italian

Blog story by IFPRI senior researcher Lawrence Haddad on the new GHI