Progress towards reaching the UN Sustainable Development Goal of Zero Hunger by 2030 is showing signs of stagnating or even being reversed, with conflict-driven hunger leaving millions of people hungry, according to the 2021 Global Hunger Index (GHI), published today.
The world as a whole – and 47 countries in particular – will fail to achieve a low levels of hunger by 2030, according to projections in the report, produced by leading humanitarian organizations, Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe, which uses data from 135 countries.
“Violent conflict is now the leading cause of hunger worldwide. This increasingly severe and protracted violence mixes with the climate crisis and COVID-19 pandemic to create a toxic cocktail destined to completely derail Zero Hunger if urgent action is not taken immediately,” said Concern Worldwide US CEO Colleen Kelly.
The GHI country index scores are produced using a three-step process which draws on statistics for undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting and child mortality to calculate a score on a 100-point scale (see: note to the editor). Scores are ranked from ‘low’ to ‘extremely alarming’:
* Africa South of the Sahara and South Asia are the regions with the highest hunger levels, with GHI scores of 27.1 and 26.1, respectively.
These hunger levels are categorized as ‘serious’.
* Somalia is the only country found to suffer from an ‘extremely alarming’ level of hunger in this year’s report. Five countries have levels of hunger that are ‘alarming’ — Central African Republic, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Madagascar, and Yemen.
* The report found that hunger has increased in 10 countries with ‘moderate’, ‘serious’, or ‘alarming’ hunger levels since 2012, the latest historical reference year in this year’s report.
These are: Central African Republic, Ecuador, Lesotho, Madagascar, Malaysia, Oman, Republic of Congo, South Africa, Venezuela, and Yemen.
* The GHI also highlights the success of countries that have reduced hunger substantially over recent years and decades. For example, Bangladesh has experienced an impressive decline in GHI scores since 2012, dropping from ‘serious’ to ‘moderate’.
In 2020, there were 56 armed conflicts involving states, either in conflict with other states or with armed non-state actors; There were 72 violent conflicts in which states were not involved (nonstate); and a further 41 in which the state or an armed group was the only actor and its opponents were unarmed. All three forms of conflict have risen significantly in the past decade, according to the report.
“To all the individuals, corporations and governments committed to Zero Hunger, know that unless we address conflict, we will not achieve Zero Hunger,” said Colleen Kelly.
The report’s recommendations are:
* International law must be strengthened, and accountability ensured for rights violations, including of the right to food in conflict settings, such as using starvation as a weapon of war.
* Governments must actively follow up on the UN Food Systems Summit by addressing the structural challenges embedded in our food systems—including inequities and threats to social cohesion, health, environment, and climate.
* All actors must work to enhance the resilience of food systems to simultaneously address the impacts of conflict and climate change and to ensure food and nutrition security.
* All actors must base actions on a thorough understanding of the context, and strengthen inclusive, locally led initiatives.
* To effectively work across the humanitarian-development-peace-building nexus, all actors’ roles must be clearly defined and sufficiently supported.