Hunger and State Failure

Last month, a coalition of organizations released the seventh annual Global Hunger Index report. The report is sobering reading, and highlights ongoing challenges of governance and environmental stresses. The report also includes a revealing summary map that details the most food insecure countries and regions.

What places top the list of the food insecure? The Global Hunger Index identifies three small countries as having the most intense problems:

  1. Haiti
  2. Burundi
  3. Eritrea

Seventeen other countries are also in dire circumstances. Of those states, the main cluster is in Africa, particularly across the Sahel region. The African states include:  Sierra Leone, Niger, Chad, Central African Republic, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Djibouti, Angola, Zambia, Mozambique, and Madagascar.

South Asia is the other large cluster of humanity of gravest concern. These states include: India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Bangladesh. (Yemen is the last of the 20.)

Finally, by way of the main summary findings, there are some important weak and failed states that have not yet been mentioned. The report did not classify the Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Myanmar (Burma), since no data were available for these countries. Limited access to basic data is a fundamental characteristic of weakly governed states. It is quite likely that most of these “no data” states would also be included in the list of most food insecure places, if reliable information were available.

I direct an emergency food pantry, and I have seen the face of hunger in my home area. The magnitude to the challenge is so much greater in places like Haiti and the Sahel. Even as many countries have seen gains over the last 30 years, the effects of climate change and rising energy prices are now significant stressors. Addressing ongoing global hunger issues will require more concerted local and global action.


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