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Global Hunger Index

File:GHI 2014 by severity.png
Map: The Global Hunger Index 2014 by severity

The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is a multidimensional statistical tool used to describe the state of countries’ hunger situation. The GHI measures progress and failures in the global fight against hunger.[1] The GHI is updated once a year.

The Index was adopted and further developed by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and was first published in 2006 with the Welthungerhilfe, a German non-profit organization (NGO). Since 2007, the Irish NGO Concern Worldwide joined the group as co-publisher.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9][10]

The 2014 GHI was calculated for 120 developing countries and countries in transition, 55 of which with a serious or worse hunger situation.[11]

In addition to the ranking, the Global Hunger Index report every year focuses on a main topic: in 2014 the thematic focus was on hidden hunger, a form of undernutrition characterized by micronutrient deficiencies.[11]

Topics of previous years included:

  • Early childhood undernutrition among children younger than the age of two (2010).[12]
  • Rising and more volatile food prices of the recent years and the effects these changes have on hunger and malnutrition in 2011.[13]
  • In 2012: Achieving food security and sustainable use of natural resources, when the natural sources of food become scarcer and scarcer.[14]
  • In 2013, the thematic focus was on the strengthening of resilience at the community level against under- and malnutrition.[15]

In addition to the yearly GHI, the Hunger Index for the States of India (ISHI) was published in 2008[16] and the Sub-National Hunger Index for Ethiopia was published in 2009.[17]

Calculation of the Index

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.[15]

The GHI combines three equally weighted indicators: 1) the proportion of the undernourished as a percentage of the population; 2) the prevalence of underweight children under the age of five; 3) the mortality rate of children under the age of five.</small>[GHI2014 1]

The data used for the 2014 GHI are for the period from 2009 to 2013 – the most recent available global data for the three components of the GHI. The data on the proportion of undernourished come from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and IFPRI (estimates).[18] Data on underweight of children under 5 are collected from UNICEF, the World Health Organization, the World Bank, [ MEASURE DHS], the Indian Ministry of Women and Child Development, and also include the authors’ own estimates.[GHI2014 2] Data on child mortality are from the UN Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation.[19]

Global and regional trends

File:GHI 2014 regional comparison.png
Regional comparison of Global Hunger Index 2014 GHI scores
Worldwide, the Global Hunger Index 2014 has a value of 12.5. this means that the overall value decreased by 39% compare to the value for 1990. Despite this progress the number of starving people remains very high.[11]

According to the GHI 2014, hunger is highest in Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia. Sub-Saharan Africa has a GHI of 18.2, while is at 18.1 for South Asia. This means that the hunger situation in these two regions is still serious following the index’s categorization. In East Asia and Southeast Asia the situation continues to improve. The GHI here has dropped to 7.6 over the last years. Very little hunger can be found in the Near East and North Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean as well as in Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States.[11]

The food and hunger situation in two countries is still “extremely alarming” according to the GHI 2014: Burundi (35.6) and Eritrea (33.8). In 14 countries the situation is classifies as alarming. This group so countries includes mainly countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, as well as Haiti, Lao PDR and Timor-Leste.[11]


Countries with extremely alarming (GHI ≥ 30), or alarming (GHI between 20.0 and 29.9) hunger situation
Global Hunger Index[10]
Rank Country 1990 1995 2000 2005 2014
1 Burundi 32 36.9 38.7 39 35.6
2 Eritrea 41.2 40 38.8 33.8
3 Timor-Leste 25.7 29.8
4 Comoros 23 26.7 34 30 29.5
5 Sudan (former) 30.7 25.9 26.7 24.1 26
6 Chad 39.7 35.4 30 29.8 24.9
7 Ethiopia 42.6 37.4 30.8 24.4
8 Yemen, Rep. 30.1 27.8 27.8 28 23.4
9 Zambia 24.7 24 26.5 24.7 23.2
10 Haiti 33.6 32.9 25.3 27.9 23
11 Sierra Leone 31.2 29 29.8 29.1 22.5
12 Madagascar 25.3 24.9 27.4 25.2 21.9
13 Central African Republic 30.3 30.3 28.1 28.9 21.5
14 Niger 36.4 36.1 31.2 26.4 21.1
15 Mozambique 35.2 32.3 28.2 24.8 20.5
16 Lao PDR 34.5 31.4 29.4 25 20.1

The Global Hunger Index is composed of the proportion of the undernourished as a percentage of the population, the prevalence of underweight children under the age of five and the mortality rate of children under the age of five (calculated average, in percentages).

The 2014 GHI score could only be calculated for former Sudan as one entity, because separate undernourishment estimates for 2011–2013 were not available for South Sudan, which became independent in 2011, and present-day Sudan.[GHI2014 3]

Focus of the GHI 2014: Hidden Hunger

Hidden hunger concerns over 200 million people worldwide. This micronutrient deficiency develops when humans do not take in enough micronutrients such as zinc, folate, iron and vitamins, or when their bodies cannot absorb them. Reasons include an unbalanced diet, a higher need for micronutrients (e.g. during pregnancy or while breast feeding) but also health issues related to sickness, infections or parasites.

The consequences for individuals can be devastating: these often include mental impairment, bad health, low productivity and death caused by sickness. In particular, children are affected if they do not absorb enough micronutrients in the first 1000 days of their lives (beginning with conception).[GHI2014 4]

Micronutrient deficiencies are responsible for an estimated 1.1 million of the yearly 3.1 million death caused by undernutrition in children. Despite the magnitude of the problem, it is still not easy to get precise data on the spread of hidden hunger. Macronutrient and micronutrient deficiencies cause a loss in global productivity of 1.4 to 2.1 billion US Dollars per year.[20]

Different measures exist to prevent hidden hunger. It is essential to ensure that humans maintain a diverse diet. The quality of produce is as important as the caloric input. This can be achieved by promoting the production of a wide variety of nutrient-rich plants and the creation of house gardens.

Other possible solutions are the industrial enrichment of food or biofortification of feedplants (e.g. vitamin A rich sweet potatoes). In the case of acute nutrient deficiency and in specific life phases, food supplements can be used. In particular, the addition of vitamin A leads to a better child survival rate.[GHI2014 5]

Generally, the situation concerning hidden hunger can only be improved when many measures intermesh. In addition to the direct measures described above, this includes the education and empowerment of women, the creation of better sanitation and adequate hygiene, and access to clean drinking water and health services.

Focus of the GHI 2013: Resilience to build food and nutrition security

Many of the countries, in which the hunger situation is "alarming" or "extremely alarming", are particularly prone to crises: In the African Sahel people experience yearly droughts. On top of that, they have to deal with violent conflict and natural calamities. At the same time, the global context becomes more and more volatile (financial and economic crises, food price crises).

The inability to cope with these crises leads to the destruction of many development successes that had been achieved over the years. In addition, people have even less resources to withstand the next shock or crises. 2.6 billion people in the world live with less than 2 USD per day. For them, a sickness in the family, crop failure after a drought or the interruption of remittances from relatives who live abroad can set in motion a downward spiral from which they cannot free themselves on their own.

It is therefore not enough to support people in emergencies and, once the crises is over, to start longer term development efforts. Instead, emergency and development assistance has to be conceptualized with the goal of increasing resilience of poor people against these shocks.

The Global Hunger Index differentiates three coping strategies. The lower the intensity of the crises, the less resources have to be used to cope with the consequences:[GHI2013 1]

  • Absorption: Skills or resources, which are used to reduce the impact of a crisis without changing the lifestyle (e.g. selling some livestock)
  • Adaptation: Once the capacity to absorb is exhausted, steps are taken to adapt the lifestyle to the situation without making drastic changes (e.g. using drought-resistant seeds).
  • Transformation: If the adaptation strategies do not suffice to deal with the negative impact of the crises, fundamental, longer lasting changes to life and behavior have to be made (e.g. nomadic tribes become sedentary and become farmers because they cannot keep their herds).

Based on this analysis the authors present several policy recommendations:[GHI2013 2]

  • Overcoming the institutional, financial and conceptual boundaries between humanitarian aid and development assistance.
  • Elimination of policies that undermine people's resilience. Using the Right to Food as a basis for the development of new policies.
  • Implementation of multi-year, flexible programs, which are financed in a way that enables multi-sectoral approaches to overcome chronic food crises.
  • Communicating that improving resilience is cost effective and improves food and nutrition security, especially in fragile contexts.
  • Scientific monitoring and evaluation of measures and programs with the goal to increase resilience.
  • Active involvement of the local population in the planning and implementation of resilience increasing programs.
  • Improvement of food especially of mothers and children through nutrition-specific and sensitive interventions to avoid that short-term crises lead to nutrition-related problems late in life or across generations.

Focus of the GHI 2012: Pressures on land, water and energy resources

Increasingly, Hunger is related to how we use land, water and energy. The growing scarcity of these resources puts more and more pressure on food security. Several factors contribute to an increasing shortage of natural resources:[GHI2012 1]

  1. Demographic change: The world population is expected to be over 9 billion by 2050. Additionally, more and more people live in cities. Urban populations feed themselves differently than inhabitants of rural areas; they tend to consume less staple foods and more meat and dairy products.
  2. Higher income and non-sustainable use of resources: As the global economy grows, wealthy people consume more food and goods, which have to be produced with a lot of water and energy. They can afford not to be efficient and wasteful in their use of resources.
  3. Bad policies and weak institutions: When policies, for example energy policy, are not tested for the consequences they have on the availability of land and water it can lead to failures. An example are the biofuel policies of industrialized countries: As corn and sugar are increasingly used for the production of fuels, there is less land and water for the production of food.

Signs for an increasing scarcity of energy, land and water resources are for example: growing prices for food and energy, a massive increase of large-scale investment in arable land (so-called land grabbing), increasing degradation of arable land because of too intensive land use (for example, increasing desertification), increasing number of people, who live in regions with lowering ground water levels, and the loss of arable land as a consequence of climate change. The analysis of the global conditions lead the authors of the GHI 2012 to recommend several policy actions:[14]

  • Securing land and water rights
  • Gradual lowering of subsidies
  • Creation of a positive macroeconomic framework
  • Investment in agriculture technology development to promote a more efficient use of land, water and energy
  • Support for approaches, that lead to a more efficient use of land, water and energy along the whole value chain
  • Preventing and overuse of natural resources through monitoring strategies for water, land and energy, and agricultural systems
  • Improvement of the access to education for women and the strengthening of their reproductive rights to address demographic change
  • Increase incomes, reduce social and economic inequality and promotion of sustainable lifestyles
  • Climate change mitigation and adaptation through a reorientation of agriculture

Focus of the GHI 2011: Rising and volatile food prices

The report cites 3 factors as the main reasons for high volatility, or price changes, and price spikes of food:

  • Use of the so-called biofuels, promoted by high oil prices, subsidies in the United States (over one third of the corn harvest of 2009 and 2010 respectively) and quota for biofuel in gasoline in the European Union, India and others.
  • Extreme weather events as a result of Climate Change
  • Future trading of agricultural commodities, for instance investments in fonds[clarification needed], which are speculating on price changes of agricultural products (2003: 13 Bn US Dollar, 2008: 260 Bn US Dollar), as well as increasing trade volume of these goods.

Volatility and prices increases are worsened according to the report by the concentration of staple foods in a few countries and export restrictions of these goods, the historical low of worldwide cereal reserves and the lack of timely information on food products, reserves and price developments. Especially this lack of information can lead to overreactions in the markets. Moreover, seasonal limitations on production possibilities, limited land for agricultural production, limited access to fertilizers and water, as well as the increasing demand resulting from population growth, puts pressure on food prices.

According to the Global Hunger Index 2011 price trends show especially harsh consequences for poor and under-nourished people, because they are not capable to react to price spikes and price changes. Reactions, following these developments, can include: reduced calorie intake, no longer sending children to school, riskier income generation such as prostitution, criminality, or searching landfills, and sending away household members, who cannot be fed anymore. In addition, the report sees an all-time high in the instability and unpredictability of food prices, which after decades of slight decrease, increasingly show price spikes (strong and short-term increase).[GHI2011 1][GHI2011 2]

At a national level, especially food importing countries (those with a negative food trade balance, are affected by the changing prices.

Focus of the GHI 2010: Early Childhood Under-nutrition

Under-nutrition among children has reached terrible levels. About 195 million children under the age of five in the developing world – about one in three children - are too small and thus underdeveloped. Nearly one in four children under age five – 129 million – is underweight, and one in 10 is severely underweight. The problem of child under-nutrition is concentrated in a few countries and regions with more than 90 percent of stunted children living in Africa and Asia. 42% of the world’s undernourished children live in India alone.

The evidence presented in the report[21] [22] shows that the window of opportunity for improving nutrition spans is the 1,000 days between conception and a child’s second birthday (that is the period from -9 to +24 months). Children who are do not receive adequate nutrition during this period have increased risks to experiencing lifelong damage, including poor physical and cognitive development, poor health, and even early death. The consequences of malnutrition that occurred after 24 months of a child's life are by contrast largely reversible.[6]

See also


  1. ^ "Global hunger worsening, warns UN". BBC (Europe). 14 October 2009. Retrieved 2010-08-22. 
  2. ^ IFPRI/ Welthungerhilfe: The Challenge of Hunger − Global Hunger Index: Facts, determinants, and trends. Case studies of post conflict countries of Afghanistan and Sierra Leone. Bonn, October 2006.
  3. ^ IFPRI/ Concern/ Welthungerhilfe: The Challenge of Hunger 2007 − Global Hunger Index: Facts, determinants, and trends 2007. Measures being taken to reduce acute undernourishment and chronic hunger. Bonn, October 2007.
  4. ^ IFPRI/ Concern/ Welthungerhilfe: Global Hunger Index − The Challenge of Hunger 2008. Bonn, Washington D.C., Dublin. October 2008.
  5. ^ IFPRI/ Concern/ Welthungerhilfe: 2009 Global Hunger Index − The Challenge of Hunger: Focus on Financial Crisis and Gender Inequality. Bonn, Washington D. C., Dublin. October 2009.
  6. ^ a b IFPRI/ Concern/ Welthungerhilfe: 2010 Global Hunger Index The challenge of hunger: Focus on the crisis of child undernutrition. Bonn, Washington D. C., Dublin. October 2011.
  7. ^ IFPRI/ Concern/ Welthungerhilfe: 2011 Global Hunger Index - The challenge of hunger: Taming Price Spikes and Excessive Food Price Volatility. Bonn, Washington D. C., Dublin. October 2011.
  8. ^ IFPRI/ Concern/ Welthungerhilfe: 2012 Global Hunger Index - The challenge of hunger: Ensuring sustainable food security under land, water, and energy stresses. Bonn, Washington D. C., Dublin. October 2012.
  9. ^ Welthungerhilfe, IFPRI, and Concern Worldwide: 2013 Global Hunger Index - The challenge of hunger: Building Resilience to Achieve Food and Nutrition Security. Bonn, Washington D. C., Dublin. October 2013.
  10. ^ a b Welthungerhilfe, IFPRI, and Concern Worldwide: 2014 Global Hunger Index - The challenge of hidden hunger. Bonn, Washington D. C., Dublin. October 2014.
  11. ^ a b c d e Welthungerhilfe, IFPRI, and Concern Worldwide. 2014. 2014 Global Hunger Index. Issue Brief No. 83. Washington, DC
  12. ^ International Food Policy Institute. 2010. 2010 Global Hunger Index. Issue Brief No. 65. Washington, DC
  13. ^ IFPRI/ Welthungerhilfe/ Concern. 2011. 2011 Global Hunger Index. Issue Brief No. 69. Washington, DC
  14. ^ a b IFPRI/ Welthungerhilfe/ Concern. 2012. 2012 Global Hunger Index. Issue Brief No. 70. Washington, DC
  15. ^ a b Welthungerhilfe, IFPRI, and Concern Worldwide. 2013. 2013 Global Hunger Index. Issue Brief No. 79. Washington, DC
  16. ^ Menon, Purnima / Deolalikar, Anil / Bhaskar, Anjor: India State Hunger Index (2009): Comparison of Hunger Across States
  17. ^ Schmidt, Emily / Dorosh, Paul (October 2009): A Sub-National Index for Ethiopia: Assessing Progress in Region-Level Outcomes. International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and Ethiopian Development Research Institute (EDRI): ESSP-II Discussion Paper 5
  18. ^ Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. (Updated Dec. 2013) Food Security Indicators. Rome.
  19. ^ IGME (Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation). 2013. Child Mortality Estimates Info, Under-five Mortality Estimates. New York.
  20. ^ Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations. 2013 The State of Food and Agriculture: Food Systems for Better Nutrition. Rome.
  21. ^ Victora, C. G., L. Adair, C. Fall, P. C. Hallal, R. Martorell, L. Richter und H. Singh Sachdev for the Maternal and Child Undernutrition Study Group. 2008. Maternal and child undernutrition: Consequences for adult health and human capital. "The Lancet" 371 (9609): 340–57
  22. ^ Victora, C. G., M. de Onis, P. C. Hallal, M. Blössner und R. Shrimpton. 2010. Worldwide timing of growth faltering: Revisiting implications for interventions. "Pediatrics" 125 (3): 473.

K. von Grebmer; A. Saltzman; E. Birol; D. Wiesmann; N. Prasai; S. Yin; Y. Yohannes; P. Menon; J. Thompson; A. Sonntag. 2014. 2014 Global Hunger Index: The challenge of hidden hunger. Bonn, Washington, DC, and Dublin: Welthungerhilfe, IFPRI, and Concern Worldwide.

  1. ^ Chapter 1: The Concept of the Global Hunger Index
  2. ^ Chapter 1: The Concept of the Global Hunger Index
  3. ^ Appendix B Data Underlying the Calculation of the 1990, 1995, 2000, 2005, and 2014 Global Hunger Index Scores
  4. ^ Chapter 3: Addressing the Challenge of Hidden Hunger
  5. ^ Chapter 3: Addressing the Challenge of Hidden Hunger

Prasai, Nilam. 2014. Global Hunger Index 2014: Interactive Tool Web application created with Tableau software 8.2. Retrieved from (access date).

von Grebmer, Klaus; Headey, Derek; Béné, Christophe; Haddad, Lawrence; Olofinbiyi, Tolulope; Wiesmann, Doris; Fritschel, Heidi; Yin, Sandra; Yohannes, Yisehac; Foley, Connell; von Oppeln, Constanze; and Iseli, Bettina. 2013. 2013 Global Hunger Index: The challenge of hunger: Building resilience to achieve food and nutrition security. Bonn, Washington, DC, and Dublin: Welthungerhilfe, IFPRI, and Concern Worldwide.

  1. ^ Chapter 3: Understanding Resilience for Food and Nutrition Security
  2. ^ Chapter 5: Policy Recommendations

Klaus von Grebmer, Claudia Ringler, Mark W. Rosegrant, Tolulope Olofinbiyi, Doris Wiesmann, Heidi Fritschel, Ousmane Badiane, Maximo Torero, Yisehac Yohannes (IFPRI); Jennifer Thompson (Concern Worldwide); Constanze von Oppeln, Joseph Rahall (Welthungerhilfe and Green Scenery): 2012 Global Hunger Index - The challenge of hunger: Ensuring sustainable food security under land, water, and energy stresses. Washington, DC. October 2012.

  1. ^ Chapter 3: 'Sustainable food security under land, water, and energy stresses', pages 25-26

Klaus von Grebmer, Maximo Torero, Tolulope Olofinbiyi, Heidi Fritschel, Doris Wiesmann, Yisehac Yohannes (IFPRI); Lilly Schofield, Constanze von Oppeln (Concern Worldwide und Welthungerhilfe): 2011 Global Hunger Index - The challenge of hunger: Taming Price Spikes and Excessive Food Price Volatility. Bonn, Washington D. C., Dublin. October 2011.

  1. ^ Chapter 3: Combating Hunger in a World of High and Volatile Food Prices
  2. ^ Chapter 4: The Impacts of Food Price Spikes and Volatility at Local Levels, pages 20–41

Further reading

  • Alkire, S. und M. E. Santos. 2010. Multidimensional Poverty Index: 2010 data. Oxford Poverty and Human Development Initiative. .
  • Wiesmann, Doris (2004): An international nutrition index: concept and analyses of food insecurity and undernutrition at country levels. Development Economics and Policy Series 39. Peter Lang Verlag.

External links