South Asia drives decline in global hunger: report

The region saw the steepest absolute decline of hunger since 1990, according to the Global Hunger Index 

Hunger in South Asia has fallen by 41 per cent since 1990 thanks to NGO and government action on child nutrition in both Bangladesh and India, according to a global report.

The region saw the steepest absolute decline of hunger by 12 points in the 24-year period, reported the Global Hunger Index (GHI) – an annual study of world hunger. “We are excited to see that there are improvements in India and also globally,” said Shenggen Fan, director general of the International Food Policy Research Institute, one of the organisations behind the study.

Part of South Asia’s progress came from improvements in childhood hunger levels in India. GHI downgraded India’s classification of hunger from “alarming” to “serious”, as the prevalence of underweight under-fives fell by almost 13 per cent between 2005 to 2006 and 2013 to 2014.

India’s strides in dealing with childhood underweight pushed the country down six points to an overall hunger score of 17.8. This year marked the end of what the report called a “data drought” in India: it is the first time in eight years this data has been available.

Bangladesh – with an overall score of 19.1, down from 36.6 in 1990 – is one of 10 countries that have seen the sharpest decline in hunger levels in 24 years. The country reduced underweight in children from 62 per cent to 37 per cent between 1990 and 2011.

The GHI studies hunger in 120 developing countries. It combines three indicators: the proportion of the population that is undernourished, the proportion of young children who are underweight and the mortality rate for under-fives.

Still, South Asia suffers from some of the worst GHI scores in this year’s index. South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa notched up the highest hunger scores at 18.1 and 18.2, respectively.

The index found overall hunger in the developing world had reduced by 39 per cent since 1990, from a score of 20.6 to 12.5. Some 805 million people globally are still chronically undernourished because they don’t get enough to eat.

Hunger levels remain “alarming” in 14 countries, the index found, and “extremely alarming” in two – Burundi and Eritrea.

“In the long-term, people cannot break out of the vicious cycle of poverty and malnutrition without being granted the basic right to nutritious food,” said Barbel Dieckmann, president of Welthungerhilfe, which also contributed to the report.