Progress in combating hunger and undernutrition has been lagging for decades. Best practices to fight hunger and undernutrition have been available for a long while, but lack of political will among leaders and a lack of political power among the poor have hampered their implementation. Since indices have proven to be powerful tools for advocacy and are able to capture multifaceted phenomena, the Global Hunger Index (GHI) was developed to increase attention to the hunger problem and mobilize the political will to speed up urgently needed progress in the fight against hunger. The GHI captures three dimensions of hunger: insufficient availability of food, shortfalls in the nutritional status of children, and child mortality, which is to a large extent attributable to undernutrition. Accordingly, the index includes three equally weighted indicators: the proportion of people who are food energy deficient as estimated by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the prevalence of underweight in children under the age of five as compiled by the World Health Organization (WHO), and the under-five mortality rate as reported by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF). The GHI has been calculated for 1981, 1992, 1997, and, most recently, for 2003. The latest round ranks 97 developing countries and 22 countries in transition. Nine out of the 12 worst-ranking countries were engaged in wars between 1989 and 2003. The hot spots of hunger and undernutrition are in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. While favorable trends prevailed in South Asia and Southeast Asia during the past two decades, progress has been sluggish in Sub-Saharan Africa. To identify those countries that do notably better or worse with regard to hunger and undernutrition than would be expected from their Gross National Income (GNI) per capita, a regression analysis of the GHI on GNI per capita is run. Controlling for the variation in GNI per capita, the GHI is 22 percent higher in war countries than in non-war countries, which is attributable to a higher proportion of people who are food energy deficient and a higher prevalence of underweight children. Likewise, in countries with an HIV prevalence greater than 10 percent, the GHI is 23 percent higher than in countries with lower prevalence rates, which can be traced back to a higher proportion of the population being food energy deficient and to a higher under-five mortality rate.


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