Democratic Republic of Congo tops global hunger index

Source: Thomson Reuters Foundation - Tue, 11 Oct 2011 13:57 GMT
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LONDON (AlertNet) - Twenty-six countries have “alarming” or “extremely alarming” hunger levels, with the situation deteriorating particularly badly in Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), according to this year’s Global Hunger Index which focuses on the impact of rising food prices on the world’s poorest people.

The growing use of crops for biofuels, extreme weather and climate change, and increased speculation in commodities are the main causes of high and volatile prices, the accompanying report said.

The four hunger hotspots are DRC, Burundi, Eritrea and Chad, as illustrated in this map which shows how the countries stack up.

However, the report does not reflect this year’s famine in the Horn of Africa, because of time lags in obtaining data.

Despite its emergence as an economic powerhouse India’s hunger situation is classed as alarming and it ranks worse than many sub-Saharan countries.

The report compiled by the International Food Policy Research Institute, Welthungerhilfe, and Concern Worldwide is released ahead of World Food Day on Oct 16.

It shows hunger has increased in six countries: DRC, Burundi, North Korea, Comoros, Swaziland and Ivory Coast.

The index, now in its sixth year, combines three indicators – the proportion of undernourished in the population, the proportion of young children who are underweight and the mortality rate for under-fives. It uses data from 2004 to 2009 – using the most recent available.

DRC, which is still recovering from the effects of its 1998–2003 civil war, has the highest proportion of undernourished people – about 70 percent of the population – and one of the highest child mortality rates.

The report says food price increases and volatility have serious implications for the poor, cutting spending on essentials, reducing calorie consumption and causing people to shift to less nutritious food. Damage can be long-term, especially for young children.

Among other things, the report calls for:

  • revision of biofuel policies
  • regulation of financial activity in food markets
  • innovations to help safeguard small­holders against weather-related income shocks
  • sharing of information on food markets
  • building up food reserves
  • establishment of national social protection schemes

Overall the report shows that global hunger has declined since 1990, but remains at a serious level.

Angola, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Niger, and Vietnam have seen the largest improvements since 1990, it says.

(Editing by Rebekah Curtis)