Hunger can't wait

While the decline in hunger and undernutrition has been robust in some parts
of the world, many countries still suffer the indignity of food insecurity and displacement

Around 821 million people, or one of every nine people on the planet, suffer from hunger according to the latest report by the Food and Agricultural Organization. An estimated 155 million children under five - years-old are chronically malnourished, and micronutrient deficiencies, also called hidden hunger affects over two billion people worldwide. At the same time, over 600 million people are obese. Hunger and undernutrition continue to have a massive impact on the next generation. About 151 million children are stunted and 51 million children are wasted across the globe. Hard-won gains are being further threatened by conflict, climate change, poor governance, and a host of other challenges. The world has made progress in reducing overall hunger, but this progress has been uneven. Severe undernutrition "stubbornly" persists, according to the 2018 Global Hunger Index (GHI).

Graph shows the global hunger index with percentage of population undernourished, wasting stunting
and under five mortality rate

hover over the graph to see details

Data Source: Global Hunger Index 2018: Force migration and hunger

The 2018 GHI score of South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa, at 30.5 and 29.4, respectively, reflects serious levels of hunger. This is in stark contrast to the GHI score in East and Southeast Asia, the Near East and North Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and Eastern Europe, where scores range from 7.3 to 13.2, indicating low hunger levels.

Map shows the percentage of undernourished population and under-five mortality rate in Africa
hover over the map to see details

Severely undernourished Africa

The rate of undernourishment, child stunting, child wasting, and child mortality are “unacceptably high” in Sub-Saharan Africa. It has the highest undernourishment and child mortality rates of any region. According to the 2018 GHI, the Central African Republic (CAR) suffers from "extremely alarming" level of hunger. It has one of the highest under-five mortality rates (12.4 per cent) in the world, along with Somalia (13.3 per cent) and Chad (12.7 per cent). Six other African nations—Burundi, Democratic Republic of Congo, Eritrea, Libya, Somalia and South Sudan—are witnessing political unrest and extreme poverty, leading to forced migration.

Data Source: Global Hunger Index 2018: Force migration and hunger

Where does India stand?
India is ranked below many neighbouring countries, including China (25), Nepal (72), Myanmar (68), Sri Lanka (67) and Bangladesh (86). Pakistan is placed at 106th position. While noting that hunger varies enormously by region, the report said the GHI scores for South Asia and African south of the Sahara reflect serious levels of hunger. Zero is the best score and a reading above 100 is the worst. The latter signifies that a country's undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting, and child mortality levels are at the highest level.

On one hand, billionaires like Mukesh Ambani earn ₹3 billion per day and on the other, 21 per cent of its population lives below the poverty line. This means that only 1 per cent of India's population holds 50 per cent of the nation's wealth. According to a World Bank report published on 27 May 2016, one in every five people is poor in India and hence cannot access basic necessities like food and water.

Did you know? At least one in five Indian children under the age of five are wasted, which means they have extremely low weight for their height.

Maps shows the percentage of stunted, underweight, wasting under 5 yrs and non immunized children in India
hover over the map to see details

Data Source: National Family Health Survey 2015-16 (NFHS-4), Ministry of Health, Govt. of India

Can reducing food waste check hunger?

Although the global food production is enough to feed all human beings, there are approximately 815 million people suffering from chronic undernourishment. India produces enough food to feed all its citizens, yet it is ranked 103 among 119 countries in the Global Hunger Index rankings. Though the country has been food-secure for the past decade, its economic growth and the changing demographics are transforming patterns of food demand. About a third of the world's food is lost or thrown away each year, approximately 1.3 billion tonnes, worth nearly $1 trillion, according to FAO. Every year, consumers in rich countries waste 222 million tonnes, which is also the entire net food production of sub-Saharan Africa - 230 million tonnes.

Did you know?
Rich nations waste $750 billion of food each year, double the amount needed to end global hunger



Data source:

✸   Global Hunger Index 2018: Force migration and hunger, Concern Worldwide
✸   The state of food security and nutrition in the world (SOFI 2018), FAO
✸   World Bank
✸   International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
✸   National Family Health Survey 2015-16 (NFHS-4), Ministry of Health, Govt. of India
✸   Strategic work of FAO to help eliminate hunger and malnutrition
✸   Food waste: alarming rise will see 66 tonnes thrown away every second, Guardian, 20 August 2018
✸   Key facts regarding food waste, FAO