Global Hunger: The Good, the Bad, and the Unknown

Ideology and famine have too often gone hand in hand.

  • In the 1960s, as many as 43 million people died in the largest famine in recorded history, the result of China’s Great Leap Forward which included the forced collectivization of agriculture.
  • In the 80s, starvation caused by Ethiopia’s brutal and recurring drought was compounded by counter-insurgency policies and “social transformation” in non-rebel areas.
  • Today’s famines, according to a recent report, are “complex humanitarian emergencies” caused primarily by armed conflict, and often civil war.

In what it calls an “unheralded achievement of the last fifty years,” the 2015 Global Health Index notes that “calamitous famines” that kill more than one million people are virtually a thing of the past, thanks to humanitarian aid. At the same time, levels of hunger are alarming or serious in 52 nations and the principal cause of hunger is conflict.

“Despite the progress made, the level of hunger in the world remains unacceptably high, with 795 million people still going hungry, more than one in four affected by stunting, and 9 percent of children affected by wasting.” Stunting, caused by chronic undernutrition results in low height for age; wasting is low weight for height, reflecting acute undernutrition.

Unknown are hunger levels in Burundi, Comoros, Eritrea, South Sudan, and Sudan – all of which had alarming or extremely alarming GHI scores in 2014 – due to the lack of data. The report concludes: “although the lack of data obscures their hunger levels, the situations in these countries still merit great concern and must not be forgotten.”

IS member, the U.S. Fund for UNICEF, advocates for resources the United Nations agency uses, in part, for investigating and reporting on child health and mortality.

FOR MORE: K. von Grebmer, J. Bernstein, A. de Waal, N. Prasai, S. Yin, and Y. Yohannes, 2015. 2015 Global Hunger Index: Armed Conflict and the Challenge of Hunger, Bonn, Washington, DC, and Dublin: Welthungerhilfe, International Food Policy Research Institute, and Concern Worldwide.

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