By Katie Nguyen
LONDON (AlertNet) - Twenty countries have "alarming" or "extremely alarming" levels of hunger with Burundi the worst affected, followed by Eritrea and Haiti, according to this year's Global Hunger Index which examines the problem of producing more food with fewer resources.
Demographic changes, increases in income, climate change and poor policies are worsening a shortage of natural resources like land, water and energy that threatens food production, the accompanying report said.
"It is an absolute must that we start now to produce more food using fewer resources and to use the harvest more efficiently. But we also face the reality that decades of effort and rhetoric have so far failed to eradicate hunger," the foreword to the report said.
Progress in reducing the proportion of hungry people in the world has been "tragically slow" and 20 countries are experiencing "alarming" or "extremely alarming" hunger levels, the report said.
About 12.5 percent of the world's population, one in every eight people, is chronically undernourished, according to new figures unveiled by the United Nations' food agencies this week.
The U.N. agencies said 868 million people were hungry in 2010-2012, down more sharply than previously estimated from about 1 billion, or 18.6 percent of the global population, in 1990-92.
South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa continue to face the highest levels of hunger, the Global Hunger Index report said.
But because of time lags in obtaining data, the report does not reflect last year's hunger crisis in the Horn of Africa or the unfolding food emergency in West Africa's semi-arid Sahel region.
The index, now in its seventh year, combines three indicators – the proportion of the population that is undernourished, the proportion of young children who are underweight and the mortality rate for under-fives.
Among its recommendations, the report calls for:
- smallholder land and water rights to be secured
- subsidies for fuels and fertiliser to be phased out
- technical solutions that conserve natural resources to be scaled up
The report, compiled by the International Food Policy Research Institute, Welthungerhilfe, and Concern Worldwide is released ahead of World Food Day on Oct. 16.