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Health | Agriculture - Nutrition

Africa sees successes fighting hunger

Food aid delivered in Darfur

© afrol News / WFP
afrol News, 12 October
- Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana and Mozambique have seen the greatest successes in fighting back hunger during the last 20 years, a new report reveals. At the same time, the situation in Burundi, Chad, the DRC and Eritrea deteriorated severely.

This was revealed by this year's edition of the Global Hunger Index, a 56-report published today. The 2010 edition is able to give a 20-year perspective of the global hunger problem, comparing to a similar report published in 1990.

The 20-year perspective produces interesting conclusions. During that time, Africa clearly has emerged the world's most hunger affected region as the situation in Asia has improved most quickly.

The worst hunger nests are now found in Africa. The only and last four countries globally listed as having "extremely alarming" levels of hunger are African: Burundi, Chad, Congo Kinshasa (DRC) and Eritrea. Somalia, for which data were lacking, probably also would be in this category.

Worldwide during the last two decades, "the largest deterioration in Global Hunger Index scores was seen in the Democratic Republic of Congo, largely because of conflict and political instability," according to the report. The DRC also has the highest proportion of undernourished people - three-quarters of the population - and one of the highest child mortality rates in the world.

But the DRC is not the only African country seeing a deterioration since 1990. Not surprisingly, hunger has grown more serious in the conflict-ridden countries Burundi, Guinea-Bissau, Liberia and Zimbabwe. More surprisingly, hunger also spread in Comoros, The Gambia and Swaziland.

Also, most of the 29 countries worldwide with "alarming" levels of hunger are found in Africa (see map). They include countries in the Sahelian belt from Burkina Faso to Ethiopia; countries in the savannah belt from Angola to Tanzania and Madagascar; and West African nations recently experiencing political violence such as Liberia, Sierra Leone and Guinea-Bissau.

Only three sub-Saharan African countries are

Index of hunger in Africa, 2010

© IFPRI/afrol News
listed with "moderate" levels of hunger. These are Gabon, Mauritius and South Africa. Countries with low hunger levels are only found in North Africa - in itself marking very quick and large advances in Algeria, Egypt and Tunisia since 1990.

But, despite this seemingly negative picture of the fight against hunger in Africa, the continent in general experienced great advances in the 1990-2010 period, the report reveals.

Almost all African countries reduced their hunger index significantly during the last 20 years. This even included conflict regions such as Sudan, Côte d'Ivoire, Rwanda, Congo Brazzaville and Sierra Leone. In Ghana and Tunisia, the reduction was even by over 50 percent.

On average, the hunger index had fallen by "almost one-quarter" for Africa as a whole during the two last decades, according to the report. While the tendency is generally positive, the report however reveals that there is still a long way ahead to reach the goal of halving hunger by 2015.

To achieve this goal, "countries need to accelerate progress in reducing child undernutrition," the report urges. Recent evidence had shown that "the window of opportunity for improving child nutrition spans the period from -9 to +24 months, that is, the 1,000 days between conception and a child's second birthday," the editors advise.

"This is the period when children are in greatest need of adequate amounts of nutritious food, preventive and curative health care, and age-appropriate care practices for healthy development," they add. "After age two, the effects of undernutrition are largely irreversible."

The report was presented today by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), with contributions by the US aid group Concern Worldwide and the German aid group Welthungerhilfe.

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