Global, Regional, and National Trends

Since 2000, significant progress has been made in the fight against hunger. The 2000 Global Hunger Index (GHI) score was 30.0 for the developing world, while the 2016 GHI score stands at 21.3, representing a reduction of 29 percent (Figure 2.1).1 To put this in context, the higher the GHI score, the higher the level of hunger. Scores between 20.0 and 34.9 points are considered serious.

Thus while the GHI scores for the developing world—also referred to as the global GHI scores—for 2000 and 2016 are both in the serious category, the earlier score was closer to being categorized as alarming, while the later score is closer to the moderate category. Underlying this improvement are reductions since 2000 in each of the GHI indicators—the prevalence of undernourishment, child stunting (low height for age), child wasting (low weight for height), and child mortality.

GHI Chapter two figure one

Large Regional Differences

The global averages mask dramatic differences among regions and countries. Africa south of the Sahara and South Asia have the highest 2016 GHI scores, at 30.1 and 29.0, respectively. Both reflect serious levels of hunger. In contrast, the GHI scores for East and Southeast Asia, Near East and North Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States range between 7.8 and 12.8, and represent low or moderate levels of hunger.

Best and Worst Country-Level Results

From the 2000 GHI to the 2016 GHI, 22 countries made remarkable progress, reducing their GHI scores by 50 percent or more. Seventy countries made considerable progress with scores that dropped by between 25.0 percent and 49.9 percent, and 22 countries decreased their GHI scores by less than 25 percent. Despite this progress, 50 countries still suffer from serious or alarming levels of hunger. Since 2000, Rwanda, Cambodia, and Myanmar, positioned at the top of Figure 2.3, have seen the largest percentage reductions in hunger of all the countries categorized as serious or alarming, with 2016 GHI scores down by just over 50 percent relative to the 2000 scores in each country. Each of these countries has experienced civil war and political instability in recent decades, and the improvements may in part reflect increased stability.

GHI Chapter two figure three

Seven countries still suffer from levels of hunger that are alarming. The majority of those are in Africa south of the Sahara: the Central African Republic, Chad, Madagascar, Sierra Leone, and Zambia. The exceptions are Haiti and the Republic of Yemen. The Central African Republic and Chad, in the lower right-hand corner of Figure 2.3, are obvious areas of concern. These countries have the highest GHI scores in this year’s report, coupled with relatively low percentage reductions in hunger since 2000. In the Central African Republic, violence and mass displacement resulting from a four-year-long civil war have taken a heavy toll on food production (FAO 2016a). Chad, which has also had a long history of civil war, has faced deteriorating food security, due in part to a recent influx of refugees and extreme weather events (FAO 2016b). The examples of these countries underscore that despite significant progress in reducing hunger globally, violent conflict, poor governance, and climate-related impacts on agriculture ensure that hunger continues to plague our planet and requires a transformative plan of action.

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. Furthermore, it is vitally important that up-to-date data are made available for these countries without delay.

Subnational Hunger and Undernutrition

Examination of individual GHI indicators at the subnational or state levels reveals disparities within countries, both in terms of absolute values and changes over time. Variations in GHI indicator values can exist within countries at all levels of the GHI Severity Scale. For countries that have low hunger and undernutrition levels nationally, examination of data at the subnational level can help identify areas of the country that lag behind, such as in Mexico and Jordan where stunting rates are shown to vary substantially between states. On the other end of the GHI Severity Scale, subnational data for the alarming countries can reveal areas that are in crisis. For example, in Zambia and Sierra Leone, GHI indicators vary widely within each country. In Cambodia, which has seen impressive reduction in its GHI score since 2000, improvements have been uneven between provinces. Such examples of subnational disparities serve as a springboard for further research into the specific causes, circumstances, and challenges of hunger at the subnational level.

  1. The regional and global aggregates for each component indicator are calculated as population-weighted averages, using the indicator values reported in Appendix C. For countries lacking undernourishment data, provisional estimates provided by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) were used in the calculation of the global and regional aggregates only, but are not reported in Appendix C. The regional and global GHI scores are calculated using the regional and global aggregates for each indicator and the formula described in Appendix A