Report: 2 billion worldwide suffer from ‘hidden’ hunger

According to the German NGO Welthungerhilfe, around 2 billion people worldwide suffer from 'hidden' hunger, a condition defined by a deficiency of vitamins and minerals rather than calories. [CIAT]

According to the German NGO Welthungerhilfe, around 2 billion people worldwide suffer from 'hidden' hunger, a condition defined by a deficiency of vitamins and minerals rather than calories. [CIAT]

805 million people still suffer from hunger worldwide, while more than twice that number – 2 billion people – are affected by so-called “hidden hunger”, says German NGO Welthungerhilfe in its latest study. EURACTIV Germany reports.

The number of people suffering from hunger worldwide is not decreasing fast enough, says the latest Global Hunger Index (GHI) report published on Monday (13 October).

Since 1990, advances have been made in the global fight against hunger, the report indicates, but due to very serious or desperate GHI scores in 16 countries, there is a growing need for action.

The joint report, conducted by Welthungerhilfe, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the Irish NGO Concern Worldwide, shows the development of hunger at a global, regional and national level while investigating the reasons for negative and positive developments.

“Conflicts like those in Syria, Iraq or in South Sudan also threaten the food situation in each of these countries,” said Bärbel Dieckmann, president of the German NGO Welthungerhilfe.

“Refugees are at a higher risk with regard to food insecurity, malnutrition and disease,” she indicated.

Three of the four countries where GHI has dropped since 1990 are in Africa: Swaziland, Comoros and Burundi.

In Swaziland, food security suffered considerably due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic, high income inequality and high unemployment as well as consecutive droughts. According to the UN’s AIDs division, Swaziland’s adult HIV prevalence in 2012 was estimated at 26.5% – the highest in the world.

As a result, the proportion of people who are undernourished has more than doubled from 2004 to 2006. Life expectancy in Swaziland fell by ten years since 1990, amounting to only 49 years in 2012, despite a slight recovery in recent years.

Increased hunger since 1990 in Comoros can be attributed to prolonged conflict and political instability. After the hunger situation continuously fell until 2005, the trend seems to have reversed and improved since then.

With the transition to peace and political stability that started in 2003, Burundi began a slow recovery from decades of economic decline. But persistent food insecurity, an enormous poverty rate, high inflation and a weak education system are some of the factors challenging the country’s future development.

Of all the countries included in this year’s Global Hunger Index report, Iraq received the second-lowest score. The country has suffered from deteriorating accessibility and quality of basic services over decades and years of instability. Ongoing violence, large numbers of internally displaced people and the influx of refugees from Syria have added to the burden. The number of undernourished people has more than doubled in Iraq since 1990.

Children most susceptible to “hidden” hunger

The focus of this year’s Global Hunger Index report was on an aspect of hunger that is often overlooked: hidden hunger. Also referred to as a micronutrient deficiency, this type of hunger affects 2 billion people worldwide who do not consume enough vitamins and minerals.

The condition is “hidden” because even people who consume enough calories may not be receiving the necessary amount of micronutrients in their diets. Children are particularly prone to the effects of inadequate supply of dietary energy, protein, vitamins and minerals.

According to the report, large parts of sub-Saharan Africa and the South Asian subcontinent have been hit particularly hard by hidden hunger. In Latin America and the Caribbean, on the other hand, these levels are relatively low, thanks to more diverse diets and less dependence on individual staple foods.

To sustainably tackle the underlying causes of hidden hunger, a multi-sector approach is needed, the report says. This must include measures in the areas of agriculture, health, water and sanitation facilities, social security, education and empowerment of women.

“Solidarity needed” to fight global hunger

The report also demonstrates that the hunger index has decreased 39% in developing countries since 1990. 26 countries were able to reduce their GHI by one-half or more including Angola, Benin, Brazil, Ghana, Cambodia, Mali, Thailand, Peru and Vietnam.

The report says progress can mostly be attributed to a decrease in child underweight among those younger than five and the share of undernourished in the population.

“The fight against hunger and malnourishment must be driven consistently forward in the 21st century. Putting an end to this dimension of human suffering will create possibilities for millions of people to lead healthy and fulfilled lives,” said Klaus von Grebmer, a researcher at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI).

The 2014 Global Hunger Index is the ninth edition of its kind.

Within the framework of the “Week of Global Hunger Aid” from 12-19 October 2014, Welthungerhilfe is calling for a world without hunger and poverty.

By making their own donation, everyone can contribute to improving equity in the world,” explained Dieckmann. “In such times of crisis, the world must pull closer together. More than ever, the world needs our solidarity, to achieve successes in the fight against hunger.”

The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is a statistical tool developed by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). The 2013 GHI collected data of three indicators from 120 countries to paint a picture of global hunger.

The indicators - the proportion of people who are undernourished, the proportion of children under five who are underweight and the mortality rate of children under five - were equally weighted.

An increase in a country’s GHI score indicates that the hunger situation is worsening, while a decrease in the score indicates improvement in the country’s hunger situation.

Find out more here.

Subscribe to our newsletters