Archive for March, 2011

Global Hunger

March 21, 2011

In public health we use “indicators,” figures derived from raw data and given an evocative name to convey the status of a particular situation that we’re trying to deal with. The Global Hunger Index is just one of these indicators that conveys a variety of information in a discrete bit of information. The GHI as it’s called gives developing countries scores based on three other indicators: the proportion of people who are undernourished, the proportion of children under five who are underweight, and the child mortality rate. The worst possible score is 100, but in practice, anything over 25 is considered “alarming”

The Index ranks countries on a 100 point scale, with 0 being the best score (“no hunger”) and 100 being the worst, though neither of these extremes is achieved in practice. The higher the score, the worse the food situation of a country. Values less than 4.9 reflect “low hunger”, values between 5 and 9.9 reflect “moderate hunger”, values between 10 and 19.9 indicate a “serious”, values between 20 and 29.9 are “alarming”, and values exceeding 30 are “extremely alarming” hunger problem.

Two-thirds of the 99 countries counted in 1990 have reduced their populations’ hunger levels. Kuwait, Malaysia, Turkey and Mexico have been the most successful, cutting their scores by over 60%. Those where hunger has increased include North Korea, Comoros and Congo. Congo’s GHI score fell by over 60%, the worst of any country.

Despite galloping economic growth, India faces severe problems due to its sheer population. Mortality rates and the prevalence of underweight children have fallen, but 42% of the world’s underweight children and 31% of its stunted children live there – a stunning indictment for a G20 member country. China has fared much better in the last decade, having largely reduced child malnutrition.

Possible strategies?

Encouraging populations of poorer countries to move closer to sustainable sources of food would also solve world hunger, but this has proven to be difficult for sociological, religious and logistical reasons.

The issue of widespread hunger is going to remain persistent as long as the world population continues to be substantially higher than the amount of food that farmers are able to produce. Large scale efforts to control population growth have proven to be extremely unpopular and nearly impossible to enforce. Many organizations such as UNICEF have dedicated themselves to the eradication of world hunger and famine, but the only way to solve world hunger permanently would involve the unified efforts of thousands of agricultural experts and significant amounts of money and material support from hundreds of world leaders.

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