The Global Hunger Index: a closer look into monitoring hunger worldwide

Sushree Behera

The UN Report states that the number of people affected by hunger in 2021 was 828 million people. This indicates that about 10% of people worldwide sleep at night with empty stomachs. Despite having plenty of food, hunger still haunts us as a paradox to our entire planet. 

It’s important to check these figures constantly and work on them nationally and internationally. But how can countries assess their hunger situation at a global level? The Global Hunger Index is the answer. What is it? How is it calculated? Most importantly, how does it track the complexities of hunger worldwide?

What is the Global Hunger Index? 

The Global Hunger Index (GHI), in simple terms, is a report used to track and understand hunger comprehensively at regional, national and global levels. It’s an annual report prepared jointly by the Welthungerhilfe and European NGOs of Concern Worldwide. 

While preparing the report, a 5-year datasheet is used for scoring. While preparing the report for 2023, we would consider the datasheet from 2017 to 2022.

Now, what’s the purpose of the Global Hunger Index (GHI)? According to the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals, the world should achieve “Zero Hunger by 2030“. Besides tracking hunger, GHI’s main purpose is to develop an understanding of hunger from regional to global levels. It helps nations identify the regions where they need to work on fighting against hunger. 

At the global level, it maps countries which have less hunger statistics and those which have high hunger statistics. This also helps other nations and global organisations to come forward and help nations and regions struggling with hunger issues.

How is the Global Hunger Index calculated? 

They publish the Global Hunger Index as a rank card wherein they rank countries based on their hunger statistics. The scores fall on a 0-100 point scale, where 0 represents “no hunger” and 100 represents “absolute hunger”. The higher the score, the more severe and extreme the hunger crisis is in the particular nation and vice versa.

Here’s a comparison of the scores and the severity level of hunger in a particular nation: 

0 to 9.9Low
10.0 – 19.9Moderate
20.0 – 34.9Serious
35.0 – 49.9Alarming
Less than or equal to 50Extremely alarming

The countries are ranked based on their GHI scores. To check if a country is improving its hunger statistics, we compare the current GHI score of the country to its scores of the previous three years.

The indicators

But how is the Global Hunger Index calculated? While calculating the scores, what factors do people keep in mind? Well, the Global Hunger Index is a comprehensive analysis of the multidimensional nature of hunger. 

Thus, it uses four indicators to measure hunger, which are listed as follows: 

  1. Undernourishment: Undernourishment, as an indicator, represents the population who are malnourished and have a deficiency in calorie intake. It considers both adult and child populations and measures the inadequacy of food availability;

  1. Child stunting: Child stunting is the indicator that reflects chronic undernutrition in children under five years of age. Due to chronic undernutrition, these children are unable to achieve the required height. It analyses the quality of diet and calories available for children, thus highlighting their nutritional deficiencies;

  1. Child wasting: Child wasting reflects acute undernutrition in children. It indicates the children population under five years of age whose weight is drastically low for their height;

  1. Child mortality: Children are more vulnerable to death due to nutritional deficiencies in comparison to adults. As the name suggests, this indicates the children population who are unable to live up to their fifth birthday. This indicator reflects the prevalence of unhealthy environments and the unavailability of adequate nutrition in a particular region.

Read more: Food security under the global standard: the 10 most malnourished countries

What does the 2022 Hunger Index indicate? 

Released on October 13, 2022, The Global Hunger Index 2022 reflected a stagnation in the efforts made to end hunger. This stagnation is the result of other causes, such as climate change and the Russia-Ukraine war crisis. 

These causes are overlapping in nature and have overshadowed the efforts made towards fighting hunger. Moreover, they have led to global inflation, thus elevating and worsening the hunger crisis only further. 

The global hunger score has improved from 19.1 in 2014 to 18.2 in 2022. However, this is a slight improvement, which makes the GHI score “moderate”.  

In 2022, the Global Health Index 2022 assessed a total of 136 countries. The top best-performing countries include China, Belarus, Croatia, Bosnia & Herzegovina and Chile. 44 countries are in drastically worse situations where the hunger crisis is the worst. 

Some of these countries are: Chad, Yemen, the Central African Republic, Somalia, Syria, and Madagascar. These countries are the bottom rank holders in the list. Furthermore, the unavailability of sufficient data prevented the calculation of scores for 15 countries.

While the hunger crisis is worsening due to several overlapping causes, it’s the duty of nations to come together to fight this both at global and national levels. The Global Health Index 2022 presented a grim picture that we must improve in order to achieve the goal of “Zero Hunger by 2030.”

Read more: ‘Zero Harvest’ and desertification: the impacts on food, emissions and water

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