GLOBAL HUNGER INDEX 2021
The Fight against Hunger Is Dangerously Off Track
Based on current GHI projections, the world as a whole – and 47 countries in particular – will fail to achieve a low level of hunger by 2030. Conflict, climate change and the Covid-19 pandemic – three of the most powerful and toxic forces driving hunger – threaten to wipe out any progress that has been made against hunger in recent years. Violent conflict, which is deeply intertwined with hunger, shows no signs of abating. The consequences of climate change are becoming ever more apparent and costly, but the world has developed no fully effective mechanism to mitigate, much less reverse, it. And the Covid-19 pandemic, which has spiked in different parts of the world throughout 2020 and 2021, has shown just how vulnerable we are to global contagion and the associated health and economic consequences.
Global Progress Is Slowing, and Hunger Remains Stubbornly High in Some Regions
Evidence shows current setbacks against hunger and suggests trouble ahead. Although GHI scores show that global hunger has been on the decline since 2000, progress is slowing. While the GHI score for the world fell 4.7 points, from 25.1 to 20.4, between 2006 and 2012, it has fallen just 2.5 points since 2012. After decades of decline, the global prevalence of undernourishment — one of the four indicators used to calculate GHI scores — is increasing. This shift may be a harbinger of reversals in other measures of hunger. In both Africa South of the Sahara and South Asia, hunger is considered serious. Africa South of the Sahara has the highest rates of undernourishment, child stunting and child mortality of any region of the world. South Asia’s high hunger level is driven largely by child undernutrition, particularly as measured by child wasting. In the regions of Europe and Central Asia, Latin America and the Caribbean, East and Southeast Asia, and West Asia and North Africa, hunger levels are low or moderate.
Hunger Remains Serious, Alarming, or Extremely Alarming in Nearly 50 Countries
According to the 2021 GHI, one country, Somalia, suffers from an extremely alarming level of hunger. Hunger is at alarming levels in 5 countries — Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar and Yemen — and is provisionally categorized as alarming in 4 additional countries — Burundi, Comoros, South Sudan and Syria. Hunger has been identified as serious in 31 countries and is provisionally categorized as serious in 6 additional countries. Since 2012, hunger has increased in 10 countries with moderate, serious or alarming hunger levels, in some cases reflecting a stagnation of progress and in others signalling an intensification of an already precarious situation. Fourteen countries have achieved significant improvements in hunger, with a reduction of 25 percent or more between their 2012 and 2021 GHI scores. However, wide variations in children’s nutritional status, even within countries’ borders, are pervasive and can be obscured by national averages.
Violent Conflict Drives Hunger
The two-way links between hunger and conflict are well established. Violent conflict is destructive to virtually every aspect of a food system; from production, harvesting, processing and transport to input supply, financing, marketing and consumption. At the same time, heightened food insecurity can contribute to violent conflict. Without resolving food insecurity, it is difficult to build sustainable peace, and without peace, the likelihood of ending global hunger is minimal.
Breaking the Links between Conflict and Hunger Can Advance Both Food Security and Peace
It is possible to begin to break the destructive links between conflict and hunger and to build resilience, even amid conflict and extreme vulnerability. Working together, actors such as states, community groups, local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), and United Nations agencies can create conditions for food security and sustainable peace. Effectively integrating a peace-building lens into the creation of resilient food systems and a food security lens into peace building will require that external actors have a well-grounded knowledge of the context and act with sensitivity to the realities of ongoing conflicts. It is important to strengthen locally-led action and reflect local concerns and aspirations while working through partnerships that bring together diverse actors and their respective knowledge. Funding should be flexible, long term, and adaptable to fluid fragile and conflict-affected contexts. Finally, it is crucial to address conflict on a political level and prosecute those who use starvation as a weapon of war.