/ 15 October 2009

Report reveals DRC is worst affected by hunger in Africa

The Democratic Republic of Congo has extremely alarming levels of hunger, according to the 2009 Global Hunger Index report released on Wednesday.

The report, released ahead of World Food Day on October 16, said 13 countries had actually seen increases in their hunger levels since 1990.

The Democratic Republic of Congo is the worst affected, followed by Burundi, Eritrea, Sierra Leone, Chad and Ethiopia.

”New this year, the report also shows that high rates of hunger are strongly linked to gender inequalities, especially in terms of literacy and access to education, and highlights which countries are most vulnerable to the global economic downturn,” the report said.

Klaus von Grebmer, lead author of the report and communications director at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), said in the report low-income countries are being hurt by the food and financial crises.

These crises had significantly reduced purchasing power and income-earning opportunities for poor people, who spend up to 70% of their income on food.

Food prices in many countries are still higher than several years ago, the report said. The index ranks countries on three leading indicators — prevalence of child malnutrition, rates of child mortality, and the proportion of people who are calorie deficient — and combines them into one score.

It also noted that countries that suffer from alarming levels of hunger are also very vulnerable to the global recession, with Burundi and the Democratic Republic of Congo prime examples.

Overall, the 2009 Index illustrates that progress in reducing hunger remains slow. Since 1990, the global score has declined by less than 25%.

”Global Hunger Index scores, however, remain distressingly high throughout much of sub-Saharan Africa, which has made the least progress in combating hunger, with only a 13% decline in its score since 1990.

”Of the ten countries that have seen the largest increase in their Index scores, nine are in sub-Saharan Africa, and the Democratic Republic of Congo’s (DRC) score has increased by an appalling 53%,” said the report.

It also said Africa was home to the highest proportion of undernourished people and the world’s highest child mortality rate.

Countries with the most severe hunger problems also had high levels of gender inequality.

The situation is especially serious in Chad, which ranks fifth worst on the Global Hunger Index, second in terms of gender inequality, and has a shockingly low female literacy rate of 13%, compared to 41% for men.

”Women’s educational level and status or power relative to men’s in households and communities significantly affect children’s nutrition,” said Agnes Quisumbing, report co-author and IFPRI senior research fellow.