Hunger in Haiti Reaches Unprecedented Levels
Haiti is not a country many people would normally associate with starvation, but the latest figures reveal a startling situation.Read More
Produced annually by Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe, the Global Hunger Index examines the available data for hunger levels around the world.
This year’s Global Hunger Index brings us face to face with a grim reality: A toxic cocktail of conflict, climate change, and the COVID-19 pandemic has already left millions exposed to food price shocks and vulnerable to further crises. Now the conflict in Ukraine — with its ripple effects on global supplies of and prices for food, fertilizer, and fuel — is turning a crisis into a catastrophe.
As we face the third global food price crisis in 15 years, it is clearer than ever that our food systems in their current form are inadequate to the task of sustainably ending poverty and hunger. This is especially true in countries that face the highest rates of undernourishment, child wasting, stunting, and child mortality due to malnutrition. Here, according to their 2022 Global Hunger Index rankings, are the world’s 10 hungriest countries.
Sierra Leone’s progress on the Global Hunger Index illustrates the long-term impacts of hunger and conflict. In 2000, the country was in the final years of a decade-long civil war. Its GHI score that year was second only to Angola. While peace was declared in January of 2002, the lingering effects of conflict are felt in food systems and — most importantly — families most vulnerable to food shortages and high inflation.
There have been ongoing challenges to progress since then: Sierra Leone was at the epicenter of the 2014-16 West African Ebola virus epidemic. One year later, it had the highest maternal mortality rates in the world. The COVID-19 pandemic was another hit to the country’s economy, shrinking growth to -2% in 2020. A rebound in 2021 was shortly-lived as the conflict in Ukraine has once again led to inflation — with high costs impacting some of life’s most basic necessities.
A country entirely surrounded by South Africa, Lesotho has lost progress towards Zero Hunger, reverting to a GHI score comparable to its 2000 rating. Part of the issue here is climate change and agriculture. Lesotho is a mountainous terrain, with only 10% of its land suited to farming. However, approximately 45% of Basotho work in agriculture. In rural parts of the country, as many as 70% of residents are engaged in subsistence farming.
Over the last three decades, however, the weather has become less reliable with failed rains and frequent droughts. This year was an especially poor harvest, bookended by a long hungry season, due to rain-induced flooding in January and February that decimated crops. This not only deprives people of their primary source of food, it also lowers incomes and raises food prices. The World Food Program estimates that rural Basotho spend 45% of their income on food.
Much like neighboring Sierra Leone, Liberia suffered a 14-year–long civil war, which ended in 2003. A decade later, it was hit by the world’s largest Ebola epidemic. One of the biggest challenges facing Liberians today is hunger and malnutrition, enabled in part by these events from recent history.
While many farms in Liberia have good conditions and soil for growing rich harvests, they often lie fallow due to a limited availability of equipment and supplies. The country is therefore dependent on imported staples, which have risen in cost in recent years due to the pandemic. With over 50% of Liberians living below the poverty line of $1.90 per day, this has created a dire situation.
Niger was excluded from recent Global Hunger Indexes due to insufficient data, but estimated to be somewhere among the top ten hungriest countries for that year. We now see it in 2022 as the seventh hungriest country in the world. In the first 15 years of the 21st century, the country made significant progress towards addressing malnutrition, but that progress has slowed in the last seven years.
The current fragile environment owes much to growing desertification, a struggling economy, and the presence of many non-state armed groups along its borders (which are shared with seven neighboring countries). Despite these challenges, community groups have come together for several initiatives and projects to address some of the challenges facing food systems in Niger, supported by the High Commission for Nigeriens Nourishing Nigeriens. Activities include providing nutritionally-fortified flour at affordable prices and consistent quality and identifying areas of action for local policymakers to pursue.
In 2022, 45% of Haiti faces acute food insecurity. According to the Food and Agriculture Organization and World Food Program, this places it among the top five highest food-security crises in the world. Currently, the number of Haitians projected to fall into IPC 4 — the category of hunger one step removed from famine — is 1.3 million. That’s more than Kenya, and not far off the figure for Somalia.
As recently as the 1980s the country was largely self-sufficient in terms of food. That changed with a set of aggressive American trade policies introduced in the 1990s. Today, an ongoing humanitarian crisis in Haiti, combined with commodity shortages, climate change, and even the conflict in Ukraine, has created an increasingly desperate situation for Haitians.
Before we get to Number 5…
A number of countries are not included on the 2022 Global Hunger Index, due to insufficient data to support calculating their GHI scores (this includes some countries that have appeared on past versions of the world’s 10 hungriest countries). Based on available data, however, we estimate that the following countries would rank somewhere between Haiti and Chad in terms of hunger levels: Guinea, Mozambique, Uganda, and Zimbabwe.
Ranked as the hungriest country in 2020, Chad is frequently at the bottom of the Global Hunger Index. Conflict and climate change have formed a deadly partnership in the country, especially when it comes to hunger and malnutrition rates. Chad is also a major host community for those fleeing conflict and instability in neighboring countries. Getting adequate food and nutrition is a major challenge for the half a million refugees living in some of the most climate-worn parts of the country.
While we’ve seen some progress overall in ending hunger since 2000, Chad is also one of several countries where child stunting levels have either increased or stagnated. (Also facing similar challenges are parts of Afghanistan, Angola, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Madagascar, and Pakistan.)
In terms of food security, the Democratic Republic of Congo was hit especially hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. Between 2020 and 2021, the number of people facing hunger jumped by 20%. Historically, Concern and Welthungerhilfe have faced challenges with getting a complete picture of hunger in the DRC. However, last year we were able to include it on our GHI rankings for the first time in years. Then, it placed as the fifth hungriest country in the world. Now it’s the fourth.
The DRC continues to be at the center of the biggest food security crisis in the world, one that’s affected 27 million people. This is fueled by conflict, climate change, and a protracted economic crisis that has left 72% of the country’s population living below the poverty line.
We’re losing progress in the fight against hunger in Madagascar. Nearly half of the country’s population (48.5%) was undernourished between 2019 and 2021. This is the second-highest malnutrition rate in this year’s report (see #2 for the highest). The effects of hunger here have led to nearly 40% of all children being stunted and 7.7% of children experiencing wasting. The child mortality rate is an alarming 5%.
One deadly partnership in Madagascar is climate change and hunger. The country’s southern region faces recurring droughts, including one that began in 2019 whose impacts are expected to last until the end of this year. At the beginning of 2022, it was also hit hard by Cyclones Emnati and Batsirai, which devastated extensive tracts of land and crops (as well as causing losses of lives, assets, and livelihoods).
2022 marks the tenth anniversary of a widespread humanitarian crisis in the Central African Republic. Bouts of sectarian violence have displaced one out of every four Central Africans and led to rising rates of hunger and malnutrition.
“It’s incredibly challenging because when people need to move to escape the violence, they may lose access to their lands,” says Pauline Carron, who works with Concern Worldwide and was in CAR at the end of last year during an intense escalation of violence. “If they can come back, they might have lost what they’ve grown, and if they missed the harvest season, they’re into the lean season without any food reserves. It’s very difficult to survive if they don’t have their own food.”
We can see how this latest crisis has affected hunger in the Central African Republic: Between 2000 and 20014, there was sustainable progress in lowering the country’s GHI score through work that addressed food insecurity and malnutrition. Between 2014 and 2022, however, we can see that progress has stalled.
Yemen is at the center of one of the world’s worst humanitarian crises, suffering from conflict within its own borders as well as the effects of conflict elsewhere. Since the start of the Yemeni Civil War in 2014, poverty has increased dramatically and the country’s economy has been crippled. Devastated public health and water and sanitation systems have also led to high case numbers of cholera, measles, and polio (among others). This makes malnutrition an even more deadly condition.
One of the issues that has made Yemen the world’s hungriest country for 2022 is its dependence on food imports. Even before the onset of conflict — and a resulting humanitarian crisis — in Ukraine, food prices in Yemen were on the rise due to the depreciation of the rial and rising fuel costs. However, its particular dependency on Russia and Ukraine for wheat has furthered levels of food insecurity and pushed the prices of basic goods even further out of reach.
As noted above, there are many countries where hunger is widespread but where data is insufficient to properly rank them on the Global Hunger Index. In 2022, several countries rank around Yemen in terms of hunger levels. They include Burundi, Somalia, South Sudan, and Syria.
Learn more about the hunger crisis in South Sudan, as well as how Concern adapted its award-winning CMAM program to address both hunger and the realities of COVID-19 in South Sudan.
Thanks to early warning and early action, drought-plagued Somalia avoided a famine in 2017. However, Somalis have been hit hard by the Horn of Africa Crisis, which comes on top of what’s best described as a cycle of crisis in the country. As of this writing, famine has yet to be declared in Somalia, but 7.8 million people are facing hunger due to the current drought. As Concern Somalia Country Director Abdi Rashid Haji-Nur put it: “Where drought leads, hunger is never far behind.”
Measuring hunger is complicated. But if we are going to get to Zero Hunger, then we need to have some way of measuring progress. Since 2006, Concern has partnered with the International Food and Policy Research Institute and Welthungerhilfe to assess the progress and setbacks in ending hunger. The Global Hunger Index (GHI) has received several national and international awards. In 2013, it received Gold in the BCP, Europe’s largest award for corporate media. It was recognized as setting the standard for reports in the nonprofit sector thanks to its credible, authentic information presented in a way that can be understood by all audiences.
For most of our 50+ years as an organization, Concern has led the way with standard-setting programs that strengthen local health systems and provide quality nutrition support and education to the world’s most vulnerable communities.