2021 Global Hunger Index: Hunger and Food Systems in Conflict Settings


This report was published jointly by the organisations Concern Worldwide, Ireland, and Welthungerhilfe, Germany, in October 2021. The first annual Global Hunger Index (GHI) report was published in 2006. This 16th edition emphasises the impact of the climate crisis, Covid-19 pandemic and violent conflicts on global hunger. It also tracks the progress made towards achieving the second goal of the United Nations’ 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development – ‘Zero Hunger’.

Quoting the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the 2019 GHI report states that ‘food deprivation’ or ‘undernourishment’ refers to the “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.”

The 2021 report uses data collected from 116 countries between 2016-2020, and tracks hunger at global, regional, and national levels. It gives each country a score which measures hunger on a 100-point scale, ranging from ‘low ‘(less than or equal to the score 9.9), ‘moderate’ (10-19.9), ‘serious’ (20-34.9), ‘alarming’ (35-49.9) to ‘extremely alarming’ (greater than or equal to 50).

The 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).

This 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.


  1. India ranked 101 with a GHI value of 27.5 in the 2021 Global Hunger Index, of a total of 116 countries. States with the highest GHI values included Somalia (50.8), Yemen (45.1) and Central African Republic (43). Countries with the lowest GHI values – of less than five – included Belarus, Brazil and Chile.

  2. Global hunger levels, measured as GHI scores, dropped by 4.7 points from 25.1 in 2006 to 20.4 in 2012. Since 2012, they have declined at a slower pace, by merely 2.5 points. The prevalence of undernourishment worldwide is also on the rise.

  3. The report states the world as a whole – and 47 countries in particular – will fail to achieve a ‘low’ level of hunger by the year 2030. As many as 28 of these countries are in Africa South of the Sahara.

  4. India’s score was 38.8 in 2000, 37.4 in 2006, 28.8 in 2012 and 27.5 in 2021. Between 2012-2021, its GHI value decreased only by 1.3 points.

  5. Among other countries in South Asia, Sri Lanka ranked 65 in the 2021 list with a GHI value of 16, followed by Nepal and Bangladesh (with a 19.1 score each) at rank 76, and Pakistan (24.7) at rank 92.

  6. Somalia is the only country with an ‘extremely alarming’ hunger level over the GHI score of 50. Nine countries have ‘alarming’ hunger levels with GHI scores from 35 to 49.9, and 37 countries are at a ‘serious’ level with scores between 20 and 34.9.

  7. Africa South of the Sahara and South Asia have the highest hunger levels globally, with GHI scores of 27.1 and 26.1 respectively.

  8. Africa South of the Sahara also has the highest global rates of undernourishment, child stunting and child mortality. The undernourishment rate in the region increased from 19.6 per cent in 2014-16 to 21.8 per cent in 2018-20. The child stunting and wasting rates there stands at 32.4 and 6.2 per cent respectively.

  9. A primary reason for South Asia’s high hunger levels is child wasting. The region had a wasting rate of 14.7 per cent as of 2020 – the highest of any region in the world.

  10. The child wasting rate of India was 17.3 per cent in 2020 – the highest among all the surveyed countries.

  11. The Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the global levels of malnutrition through food insecurity, as well as lesser access to healthcare, immunisation and antenatal care. As per the World Health Organization’s report Pulse Survey on Continuity of Essential Health Services during the COVID-19 Pandemic of August 2020, half of the 105 surveyed countries reported partial or severe disruptions in services dedicated to combating malnutrition.

  12. The report states that violent conflicts contribute to failure in food systems, increasing hunger and food insecurity in the conflict-ridden areas. Out of the 10 States with ‘alarming’ or ‘extremely alarming’ hunger levels, violent conflict is a major reason in as many as eight countries. The report suggests that peace building efforts in these regions must prioritise issues of food security.

  13. The report presents policy recommendations seeking to ensure food and nutrition security globally. These include integrating local, national, and international measures to bolster infrastructure with the highest potential of bringing about food security; strengthening international humanitarian law to ensure the right to food for all; and adopting an approach that prioritises local concerns.

    Focus and Factoids by Vaishnavi Iyer.


Klaus von Grebmer, Jill Bernstein, Miriam Wiemers, Tabea Schiffer, Asja Hanano, Olive Towey, Réiseal Ní Chéilleachair, Connell Foley, Seth Gitter, Kierstin Ekstrom, Heidi Fritschel, Caroline Delgado and Dan Smith


Concern Worldwide, Ireland; Welthungerhilfe, Germany


Oct, 2021