Bangladesh has slipped 16 places to 73rd in the Global Hunger Index 2015, despite significant longer-term achievements over the last quarter-century in fighting hunger.
According to the 2015 GHI released on Monday by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Welthungerhilfe, and Concern Worldwide, Bangladesh is still one of the countries suffering from “alarming level of hunger”, with a score of 27.3.
The lower a country’s score in the index, the better its rank. Kuwait, with a score of 5, tops this year’s ranking, followed by Saudi Arabia and Turkey on 5.1.
Bangladesh was ranked 57th in the 2014 GHI, but the way it is compiled means it is better to monitor a country’s progress on lowering their score than to focus on ups-and-downs in the rankings.
The 2015 GHI combines four component indicators –undernourishment, child wasting, child stunting and child mortality- a slightly different metric to previous years. Rather helpfully though, retroactive scores based on this measurement are provided in the report at 5-year intervals stretching back to 1990 (except 2010) – even though the GHI itself was first published only in 2006.
Here we find that Bangladesh’s score in the 1990 index was 52.2. That means over a period of 25 years, if the GHI is to be believed, Bangladesh has managed to reduce hunger by almost 50 percent – 47.9 percent, more accurately.
Yet progress has been slowing down in recent years – although that may just have to do with higher base from which Bangladesh started. Over the first decade covered by the GHI – that coincided with great political, social and economic upheavals in the country – Bangladesh’s score in the GHI came down from 52.2 in 1990 to 38.5 in 2000. That means hunger levels were reduced by over a quarter.
In the last decade though, the reduction has slowed down to a trickle, from 31.0 in the (retroactive) 2005 index to this year’s 27.3 – meaning a drop in hunger levels just over 10 percent.
From 2000-2015, Bangladesh has managed to cut down hunger by 29 percent, just above developing countries as a group. The 2015 GHI shows that the level of hunger in developing countries as a group has fallen by 27 percent since 2000.
This year’s GHI has been calculated for 117 countries for which data on the four component indicators are available and where measuring hunger is considered most relevant. GHI scores are not calculated for some higher-income countries where the prevalence of hunger is very low.
Regionally, the highest GHI scores, and therefore the highest hunger levels, are still found in Africa south of the Sahara and South Asia. Despite achieving the largest absolute improvements since 2000, these two regions still suffer from serious levels of hunger.
Levels of hunger are alarming or serious in 52 countries. Most of the eight countries with alarming GHI scores are in Africa south of the Sahara. While no countries are classified in the extremely alarming category this year, this high level of hunger could still exist.
Due to insufficient data, 2015 GHI scores could not be calculated for places that recently suffered from high levels of hunger, including Burundi, Comoros, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan, and Sudan.
The countries with the highest 2015 GHI scores, and therefore the highest hunger levels, were the Central African Republic, Chad, and Zambia. It is perhaps not surprising that the first two of these three countries have been plagued with high hunger levels, given the violent conflict and instability their people face.
This year’s report concentrates on the strong links between armed conflict and hunger. The countries with the highest GHI scores tend to be those engaged in or recently emerged from war.
In the essay accompanying the index, Alex de Waal, executive director of the World Peace Foundation, reveals a historic, but unheralded achievement. Calamitous famines—those that cause more than 1 million deaths—have been eliminated. What’s more, until recently, great famines—those that kill more than 100,000 people—were much more common.
Deaths from these famines exceeded 15 million in five separate decades in the 20th century. In the 21st century, the death toll from great famines is near 600,000, still cause for concern, yet low by historical standards.