What is the Global Hunger Index?

The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is a tool designed to comprehensively measure and track hunger globally, regionally, and by country. Each year, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) calculates GHI scores in order to assess progress, or the lack thereof, in decreasing hunger. The GHI is designed to raise awareness and understanding of regional and country differences in the struggle against hunger. By calling attention to the issue, we hope that this report will help to increase the commitment and resources dedicated to ending hunger worldwide.

How do you interpret a GHI score?

An increase in a country's GHI score indicates that the hunger situation is worsening, while a decrease in the score indicates an improvement in the hunger situation.

What are the scores based on?

The scores are based on source data for the four component indicators. The data for these indicators are continually revised by the international organizations that compile them, and each year's GHI report reflects these revisions. The 2016 GHI reflects country-level data and projections spanning the period 2011 to 2016.

What are the four components used in the GHI formula?

The four component indicators are:

  • Undernourishment: the proportion of undernourished people as a percentage of the population (reflecting the share of the population with insufficient caloric intake);
  • Child wasting: the proportion of children under the age of five who suffer from wasting (low weight for their height, reflecting acute undernutrition);
  • Child stunting: the proportion of children under the age of five who suffer from stunting (low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition); and
  • Child mortality: the mortality rate of children under the age of five (partially reflecting the fatal synergy of inadequate nutrition and unhealthy environments).1

Why are scores based on these four indicators?

Because hunger is a complex problem, a variety of terms are used to describe the different forms it takes. To reflect the multidimensional nature of hunger, the GHI combines the four component indicators into one index. There are several advantages to measuring hunger using this multidimensional approach. It reflects the nutrition situation of not only the population as a whole, but also of children—a 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. It also combines independently measured indicators to reduce the effects of random measurement errors.

Which countries have GHI scores?

The 2016 GHI has been calculated for 118 countries for which data on the four component indicators are available and where measuring hunger is considered most relevant. GHI scores are not calculated for some higher-income countries where the prevalence of hunger is very low. However, even for some high-income countries, hunger is a pressing concern among a portion of the population, yet the methodology of the GHI is not necessarily appropriate for these countries, nor are the necessary data available for the calculations.

Where do the data come from?

The scores are based on source data that are continuously revised by the international organizations that compile them, and each year's GHI report reflects these revisions. While these revisions result in improvements in the data, they also mean that the GHI scores from different years' reports are not comparable with one another. This year's report contains 2016 GHI scores and scores for three reference periods—1992, 2000, and 2008—all of which have been calculated with revised data. To track the progress of a country or region over time, the 1992, 2000, 2008, and 2016 scores within this report can be compared.

How current is the GHI?

The GHI is only as current as the data for its four component indicators. The 2016 GHI reflects the most recent country-level data and projections available between 2011 and 2016. It therefore reflects hunger levels during this period rather than solely capturing the conditions in 2016.2

What time periods do the data cover?

The 1992, 2000, 2008, and 2016 GHI scores presented in this year's report reflect the latest revised data for the four component indicators of the GHI. The 1992 GHI scores are based on data from 1990 through 1994; the 2000 scores are based on data from 1998 through 2002; the 2008 scores are based on data from 2006 through 2010; and the 2016 scores are based on data and projections from 2011 through 2016. Where original source data were not available, the estimates for the GHI component indicators were based on the most recent data available.

What's new about the current formula?

The current formula was introduced in 2015 and is a revision of the original formula that was used to calculate GHI scores between 2006 and 2014. The revision replaces child underweight, previously the sole indicator of child undernutrition, with two indicators of child undernutrition—child wasting and child stunting—which are equally weighted in the GHI calculation. The revised formula also standardizes each of the component indicators to balance their contribution to the overall index and to changes in GHI scores over time.

Could GHI scores be calculated for all countries?

No, due to insufficient data, 2016 GHI scores could not be calculated for 13 countries; however, based on available data, as well as the available information from international organizations that specialize in hunger and malnutrition, and the existing literature, 10 of these countries are identified as cause for significant concern: Burundi, the Comoros, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Libya, Papua New Guinea, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan, and the Syrian Arab Republic. In the absence of GHI scores, it is critical to analyze the available food security and nutrition data to understand the situation in these countries to the greatest extent possible, particularly given that levels of child undernutrition and child mortality in some of these countries are among the highest in the world.

What's needed to solve the data gap problem?

Further improvements in collecting high-quality data on hunger and undernutrition will allow for a more complete and current assessment of the state of global hunger, which can, in turn, better guide efforts to end hunger.

More information can be found at: www.ifpri.org/ghi/2016

  1. According to recent estimates, undernutrition is responsible for 45 percent of deaths among children younger than five years old (Black et al. 2013).  

  2. The latest undernourishment estimates from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) include projections for 2014–2016, which are used in the calculation of the 2016 GHI (FAO, IFAD, and WFP 2015).