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Text by Apoorva PRASAD

Latest update : 2010-10-11

The 2010 Global Hunger Index released Monday says that nearly one in six people go hungry, with child malnutrition causing lifelong harm to health and productivity. South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa fared the worst. (Photo: Philip Flämig/IFPRI).

Some one billion people, or nearly one of every six people in the world, went hungry in the last year, according to a world hunger report released Monday. Most of them are in South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

The 2010 Global Hunger Index report, published by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPR), Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe, scores 122 countries on three factors: the percentage of the population that is undernourished; children under-five who are underweight; and child mortality rates.

These countries are indexed on a score of 0 to 100, with zero equaling no hunger. The war-ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo is ranked the worst in the world, scoring above 40 and categorized as having “extremely alarming” hunger levels.

More than half of all people in the DRC, Burundi, the Comoros and Eritrea don’t have enough to eat, according to the report.

The study focuses on children, worst-hit due to early undernourishment. “After age two, the negative effects of undernutrition are largely irreversible,” said Marie Ruel, an IFPRI director and report co-author.

More than half of all children in Burundi, Madagascar, Malawi, Ethiopia and Rwanda suffer stunted growth. In general, sub-Saharan Africa scores poorly due to conflict, AIDS and poor governance.

South Asia has fared better in the last decade, with targeted interventions leading to substantial progress. Thailand and Malaysia have made impressive reductions in malnutrition as has Bangladesh, but nearly half of all Bangladeshi children suffer stunted growth.

Despite galloping economic growth, India faces severe problems due to its sheer population. Mortality rates and the prevalence of underweight children have fallen, but 42% of the world’s underweight children and 31% of its stunted children live there – a stunning indictment for a G20 member country. China has fared much better in the last decade, having largely reduced child malnutrition.

In South Asia, the key issues are women’s status and poverty, says Purnima Menon, another of the report’s co-authors. Progress depends on taking action to aid children’s nutrition during a “1000-day window”, she says. This window is the period between conception and the child’s second birthday.

“[Intervention] depends very much on the [local] context,” she adds. “In Bangladesh, there’s a lot of donor action in addition to existing national programs. In places like India… international agencies have shifted focus from the central government to assisting [individual] state governments.” India is a large federal country where different states perform at widely differing levels. 

Date created : 2010-10-11

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