2020 Global Hunger Index: One Decade to Zero Hunger, Linking Health and Sustainable Food Systems
This report was published jointly by Concern Worldwide, Ireland, and Welthungerhilfe, Germany, in October 2020. The first annual Global Hunger Index (GHI) report was published in 2006. This 15th edition emphasises the link between health and sustainable food systems, as well as the second goal of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – ‘Zero Hunger’.
GHI “is a tool for comprehensively measuring and tracking hunger at global,
regional, and national levels.” Quoting the Food and Agriculture Organization
of the United Nations, the report states that ‘food deprivation’ or
‘undernourishment’ refers to “the consumption of too few calories to provide
the minimum amount of dietary energy that each individual requires to live a
healthy and productive life, given that person’s sex, age, stature, and
physical activity level.”
GHI is calculated using four indicators: ‘undernourishment’ (the share of the
population whose caloric intake is insufficient), ‘child wasting’ (the share of
children under the age of five who have low weight for their height, reflecting
acute undernutrition), ‘child stunting’ (the share of children under the age of
five who have low height for their age, reflecting chronic undernutrition), and
‘child mortality’ (the mortality rate of children under the age of five).
report uses data collected by various United Nations agencies – including the
Food and Agriculture Organization, United Nations Interagency Group for Child
Mortality Estimation, World Health Organization, United Nations Children’s Fund
– and other organisations such as the World Bank.
Globally, nearly 690 million people are undernourished, 144 million children are stunted and 47 million children suffer from wasting. In 2018, 5.3 million children died before their fifth birthdays – in many cases, as a result of undernutrition.
The worldwide GHI value in 2020 was 18.2. The highest value was recorded in Africa South of the Sahara (27.8), followed by South Asia (26), West Asia and North Africa (12), East and Southeast Asia (9.2), Latin America and the Caribbean (8.4) and Europe and Central Asia (5.8).
India ranked 94 – with a GHI value of 27.2 – in the 2020 Global Hunger Index, of a total of 107 countries. Countries with the highest GHI values included Madagascar (36), Timor-Leste (37.6) and Chad (44.7). Countries with the lowest GHI values – of less than 5 – included Belarus, Brazil and Chile.
India had a GHI value of 38.9 in 2000, 37.5 in 2006, 29.3 in 2012 and 27.2 in 2020.
Sri Lanka (16.3) ranked 64 in the 2020 GHI list, Nepal (19.5) ranked 73, Bangladesh (20.4) ranked 75 and Pakistan (24.6) ranked 88.
The report notes that the world is not on track to achieve ‘Zero Hunger’, the second goal of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. At the current pace, approximately 37 countries are unlikely to reach what the GHI categorises as ‘low’ hunger (a GHI value of below 9.9) by 2030.
The report categorises the hunger level in the Democratic Republic of the Congo as ‘alarming’ (between 35 and 49.9 on the GHI scale). Nearly 72 percent of the country’s population is living in poverty. In the last few years, multiple public health crises – including outbreaks of Ebola, measles, cholera, and now the global Covid-19 pandemic – have further undermined people’s health, food and nutrition security, and economic well-being.
Nepal’s GHI score has improved in the past two decades, the report states. The country’s 2020 score is 19.5, considered ‘moderate’ according to the GHI scale. The current value reflects reduced undernourishment, a declining rate of child stunting, a slight improvement in child wasting, and a substantial decline in child mortality.
Within countries, there exist wide disparities in different indicators of hunger depending on an individual’s wealth, location, ethnicity, and gender.
The Covid-19 pandemic – the report states – has revealed the degree to which social protection is lacking for the most vulnerable populations. Programmes for the well-being of the poor, children, the elderly and others, through cash and food transfers, subsidies and social insurance, are crucial for people’s food security during crises. Even before the pandemic, 55 per cent of the world’s population was not covered by any social protection programme.
Apart from ensuring the right to adequate and nutritious food for all and ending hunger, it is also crucial to reshape our food systems to become fair, healthy, resilient, and environmentally friendly.
Focus and Factoids by Nalinaksha Singh.
PARI Library's health archive project is part of an initiative supported by the Azim Premji University to develop a free-access repository of health-related reports relevant to rural India.
Klaus von Grebmer, Jill Bernstein, Miriam Wiemers, Keshia Acheampong, Asja Hanano, Brona Higgins, Réiseal Ní Chéilleachair, Connell Foley, Seth Gitter, Kierstin Ekstrom, and Heidi Fritschel
Concern Worldwide, Ireland; Welthungerhilfe, Germany