The Global Hunger Index places Uganda alongside 30 countries that have serious levels of hunger. Other prominent names in the category include Guinea Bissau, Niger, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
The report says following many years of stagnation, the number of hungry people in the world rose between 2015 and 2018 by nearly 40 million people, with the greatest rise coming in drought-affected countries in sub-Saharan Africa.
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.
When a country’s score is less than 10.0, it reflects low hunger; values from 10.0 to 19.9 reflect moderate hunger; values from 20.0 to 34.9 indicate serious hunger; values from 35.0 to 49.9 are alarming; and values of 50.0 or more are extremely alarming.
The highest hunger levels are found in Sub-Saharan Africa (27.1) followed by South Asia (26.1). The data used to calculate GHI scores comes from published UN sources (Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations, the World Health Organisation, UNICEF, and Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation), the World Bank, and Demographic and Health Surveys.
According to the index, hunger has increased in 10 countries with ‘moderate,’ ‘serious,’ or ‘alarming’ levels since 2012— the latest historical reference year in this year’s report.
Out of the 116 countries with sufficient data to calculate the latest GHI scores, Somalia, suffers from an extremely alarming level of hunger while five others have levels of hunger that are alarming—the Central African Republic, Chad, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, and Yemen.
According to the report, there are many more countries where the hunger situation may be just as concerning, but data gaps prevent calculation of their exact scores.The humanitarian agencies say the world as a whole – and 47 countries in particular – will fail to achieve low levels of hunger by 2030, according to projections in the report.
The stagnation or even reversal of the UN Sustainable Development Goal of ‘Zero Hunger by 2030’ has mainly been caused by conflict leaving millions of people hungry.
“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 Colleen Kelly, the CEO of Concern Worldwide.
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 (non-state); 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 Kelly.
The report notes that conflict stands out as the single biggest factor driving global hunger today with over 60% of those who are said to be food insecure living in conflict zones.
“Conflict forces people to flee from their homes, often leaving behind their only means to a livelihood,” it reads in part, further noting that, “It also divides communities and causes farmers to abandon any long term agricultural strategies for fear that they will never reap the benefits if they are forced to flee.”
But climate change is also quickly turning out to be a big factor. An increase in the frequency and severity of natural disasters has devastated some regions, destroying crop yields and limiting the quantity of food available to communities.
More recently, the COVID-19 pandemic has threatened the food security of millions of people worldwide. Reduced incomes, increased unemployment and higher food prices in many regions have greatly reduced access to food for those affected.
Meanwhile, the ever rising global population is proving to be an even bigger challenge for several countries around the world. According to the UN, the global population will hit the 10 billion mark in 2050.
As the population continues to grow, the UN warns, it is necessary that food production and food accessibility grow to match it. Unfortunately, we have already seen in countries that have experienced population booms that resources needed for food production (water supply, croplands) can become scarce when shared out, causing food insecurity.
In their policy brief published to coincide with the release of the index, Caroline Delgado and Dan Smith of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) noted that there is an intersection between conflict and hunger and the world must take steps to break the links between the two in order to contribute to a more peaceful and food secure planet.
According to Delgado and Smith, without achieving food security, it will be difficult to build sustainable peace, and without peace the likelihood of ending global hunger is minimal.
“The two-way links between conflict and increased food insecurity and between peace and sustainable food security are unique to each case and often complex.”
“The good news is that it is possible to begin to break the destructive links between conflict and hunger in the midst of ongoing conflict; even where there is extreme vulnerability, it is possible to start building resilience.”
In its recommendation, the report urges governments to “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 and the actors must base actions on a thorough understanding of the context, and strengthen inclusive, locally led initiatives.”