Troubled by civil strife and isolation, Burundi, Comoros, Eritrea top 2013 global hunger index

by Katie Nguyen | Katie_Nguyen1 | Thomson Reuters Foundation
Monday, 14 October 2013 09:46 GMT

A child breastfeeds during an information meeting run by Service Yezu Mwiza (SYM- Good Jesus) about the prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV at a health centre in Gatumba, outside Bujumbura, on April 19, 2013. REUTERS/Darrin Zammit Lupi

Image Caption and Rights Information
South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa remain regions facing the highest levels of hunger

LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Nineteen countries have alarming levels of hunger, with Burundi being the worst affected for the second year in a row, followed by Comoros and Eritrea, according to this year's Global Hunger Index.

Despite progress in combating global hunger - two years ago, the index had tallied 26 countries with “alarming” or “extremely alarming” hunger levels - 870 million people around the world still go hungry every day.

Building the resilience of communities to withstand the worst effects of extreme weather, surging food prices or prolonged political unrest was crucial in helping to prevent the most vulnerable from being exposed to deeper poverty and malnutrition, said the report released on Monday, ahead of World Food Day on Oct. 16.

"Firefighting with emergency aid is not enough," said Dominic MacSorley, chief executive of Concern, which compiled the report along with the International Food Policy Research Institute and Welthungerhilfe.

"Aid agencies, governments and international organisations need to learn lessons from the past and boost future protection measures to reduce the impact of extreme weather events and other hazards on the world's poorest and most vulnerable people," he said in a statement.

"We can't predict every possible terrible event, but we need to break the endless cycle of disaster-respond, disaster-respond where we can."

As in previous years, South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa were identified as regions facing the highest levels of hunger.

The report said conflict and political instability in Burundi, where years of civil war killed 300,000 people, and Comoros, which has experienced around 20 coups or coup attempts since independence in 1975, were partly to blame for increased hunger in the two African countries since 1990.

Eritrea has also faced its own problems stemming from its increasing isolation under the two-decade rule of President Isaias Afewerki, a former guerrilla who led the Red Sea state to independence in 1993 after a 30-year war with Ethiopia.

The index, now in its eighth year, 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.