The Global Hunger Index, released Monday, shows progress against
hunger in South Asia and Latin America. But the world needs to focus
on childhood nutrition for this to continue.
To understand how the world has reduced the ranks of the hungry
over two decades, take a look at Malaysia.
Food and nutrition programs targeting the very youngest have been
added to sustained economic growth, and that combination has put the
Southeast Asian country near the top of the list of the world's
To zero in on why hunger remains a global challenge and an
economic stumbling block in many countries - principally in sub-
Saharan Africa - look no further than the Democratic Republic of the
There, a nefarious combination of conflict and deteriorating
government services and infrastructure have led to a 66 percent rise
in the ranks of the hungry over two decades. Three-quarters of the
population now suffers from hunger.
The Global Hunger Index released Monday finds that many
developing countries primarily in South Asia and Latin America have
made significant progress in reducing hunger. But continued
improvement in the rates of hunger - and in addressing the
development problems that result from hunger - depends on a
universal focus on early childhood nutrition.
"Child nutrition is one of the biggest challenges to reducing
global hunger," says Marie Ruel, director of the poverty, health,
and nutrition division at the International Food Policy Research
Institute (IFPRI) in Washington.
The 1,000 days of life "from conception to two years" go a long
way in setting a child's health, education, and productivity
patterns, she says, adding: "In order to improve the hunger index,
countries will have to accelerate progress in child nutrition."
World Food Day coming
The Global Hunger Index, or GHI, is a country-by-country report
card issued to correspond with World Food Day on Oct. 16. Two
international poverty- and hunger-reduction nongovernmental
organizations, Germany's Welthungerhilfe and Ireland's Concern
Worldwide, team up with IFPRI to deliver the annual snapshot of
The report comes as the world makes some progress in reducing the
spike in global hunger that followed an onslaught of food shortages
and food price hikes in 2008, food experts say. But they add that
the world remains far from achieving the goal, set by world leaders
in 2000, of cutting world hunger in half by 2015.
"The number of hungry people has actually been increasing ... on
the heels of a global food price crisis and in the midst of
worldwide recession," says the foreword to the report. The good
news, it adds, is that the number of undernourished people globally
is estimated to have fallen from the spike of more than 1 billion in
2009 to 925 million this year.
Global hunger has fallen by about a quarter since 1990, Ms. Ruel
notes. And some food experts say they are seeing the focus on early
childhood nutrition that is necessary to sustain that progress.
"We are serious political momentum building behind this issue,"
says Tom Arnold, chief executive of Concern Worldwide, noting a
"road map" for scaling up nutrition at a UN summit last month. …