Climate protection is essential to reducing hunger, new study findsPublished: Oct 15, 2019 Reading time: 3 minutes
Annual Global Hunger Index warns that while the number of people globally suffering from acute hunger and undernutrition is declining, progress is uneven. The effects of climate change and conflicts are a key reasons why.
The average number of people globally suffering from inadequate food supply, child undernutrition and child mortality has declined since 2000, with the most significant improvements in Angola, Ethiopia, Myanmar and Rwanda. Nonetheless, the situation remains critical in many parts of the world.
According to the 2019 Global Hunger Index (GHI), an annual assessment of countries’ hunger severity, the level of hunger and undernutrition is serious in 43 countries and alarming in five. Moreover, the situation has deteriorated in nine countries since 2010. The worst-affected countries are in Sub-Saharan Africa, particularly Chad, Zambia and Madagascar. Countries in Southeast Asia also suffer high rates of hunger. The worst-performing country is the Central African Republic, where 60% of people are undernourished.
Insufficient data in Somalia, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, South Sudan and Syria prevented inclusion of these countries in the GHI.
Undernutrition is one of the three indicators of the GHI rankings. Prior to 2015, the number of undernourished people had been declining. Since then, however, an additional 37 million people have been categorized as undernourished, bringing the worldwide total to 822 million. Climate change and related factors have contributed to this reversal. For instance, since 1990 extreme-weather events like droughts, storms, floods and fires have doubled in frequency.
“Climate change brings drought and with it, fewer possibilities to ensure livelihoods,” says Jan Svitálek, People in Need´s advisor for agriculture and natural resources. “Together with the lack of water, extreme events contribute to the reduction of harvests. Poor harvests and rising prices result in inaccessibility of food sold at markets for the most vulnerable people.”
Hunger has many causes, from armed conflicts to economic crises. But when these factors are combined with the long-lasting effects of climate change, underlying tensions are exacerbated. Unfortunately, the poorest people are also the most vulnerable to climate change and its impacts.
“Among other things, poverty and hunger lead to environmental degradation,” says Svitálek. “Regions where people are starving are often most threatened by climate change. In addition, inhabitants of these regions do not have many possibilities to prepare for climate change-related problems.”
The report warns about the inadequate global response to the climate-change challenge and suggests that the world’s most developed countries, as the planet’s biggest emitters of greenhouse gases, should invest in strengthening the resilience and adaptation of countries in the Global South. However, the report also warns that these investments should not replace development aid for fighting poverty and malnutrition.
“For more than 10 years, People in Need has been focusing on projects related to hunger and climate change; we help people prepare and cope with its impacts,” says Svitálek. “In Ethiopia, for instance, People in Need helps local farmers tackle drought and cultivate their land in an environment-friendly way.” Other hunger-related project areas include Zambia and the Democratic Republic of the Congo.
About the GHI:
Global Hunger Index rankings are based on United Nations and World Bank data. Three main hunger dimensions are included in the index: insufficient food intake, child malnutrition and child mortality. Countries are ranked on a scale from 0 - 100 (0 being the best, 100 being the worst). Rankings are divided into five categories based on hunger severity, ranging from low to extremely alarming. The GHI is prepared by Welthungerhilfe and Concern Worldwide, in collaboration with the Alliance 2015 network, a group of international NGOs that includes People in Need.