Global Hunger Index 2021 and Bangladesh

02 November 2021

Dr Matiur Rahman :
The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is a tool for comprehensively measuring and tracking hunger at global, regional, and national levels over recent years and decades. The Global Hunger Index is based on four factors. These are malnutrition, underweight children under five and height of children under five and mortality of children under five.
The recently published 'The Global Hunger Index (GHI) -2021' shows that Bangladesh has taken a step back. Hunger has increased in the country, it shows. Out of 116 countries, this time Bangladesh is at 76. According to data, Bangladesh's score this year is 19.1. Nepal's score is also the same. Last year, Bangladesh's score was 20.4. Out of 116 countries, India ranks 101 in the world. Last year it was 94. This time Pakistan is ranked 92nd and Myanmar is ranked 71st.
Although Bangladesh is one step behind in the World Hunger Index 2021 as compared to the World Hunger Index 2020, it has improved by a score of 100 points. As a result, Bangladesh has risen from a 'critical' level to a 'moderate' level. This is good news. But we should not suffer from the complacency. The countries of the developed world, including some in Africa, are in a much better position than we are.
In 2021, data were assessed for the 135 countries that met the criteria for inclusion in the GHI, and GHI scores were calculated for 116 of those countries based on data from 2016 to 2020. The data used to calculate GHI scores come from published UN sources (Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, World Health Organization, UNICEF, and Inter-agency Group for Child Mortality Estimation), the World Bank, and Demographic and Health Surveys.
The 2021 GHI points to a grim hunger situation fueled by a toxic cocktail of the climate crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic, and increasingly severe and protracted violent conflicts. Progress toward Zero Hunger by 2030, already far too slow, is showing signs of stagnating or even being reversed.
The GHI categorizes and ranks countries on a 100-point scale: values of less than 10.0 reflect low hunger; values from 10.0 to 19.9 reflect moderate hunger; values from 20.0 to 34.9 indicate serious hunger; values from 35.0 to 49.9 are alarming, and values of 50.0 or more are extremely alarming.
Based on current GHI projections, the world as a whole - and    47 countries in particular - will fail to achieve a low level of hunger by 2030. Conflict, climate change, and the COVID-19 pandemic - three of the most powerful and toxic forces driving hunger - threaten to wipe out any progress that has been made against hunger in recent years.
Violent conflict, which is deeply intertwined with hunger, shows no signs of abating. The negative consequences of climate change are becoming ever more apparent and costly, but the world has developed no fully effective mechanism to mitigate, much less reverse, it. And the Covid-19 pandemic, which has spiked in different parts of the world throughout 2020 and 2021, has shown just how vulnerable we are to global contagion and the associated health, social, and economic consequences.
As a result of these factors - as well as a host of underlying factors such as poverty, inequality, unsustainable food systems, lack of investment in agriculture and rural development, inadequate safety nets, and poor governance - progress in the fight against hunger shows signs of stalling or even being reversed.
Humanitarian, development and peace-building actors must engage in systemic and ongoing analysis of the context. All programs and interventions must identify the causes of and actors in any conflict and must design programming with an understanding of existing power relations, placing affected people at the Centre.
All actors must address the need for transparency, accountability, and inclusive participation of those who are most vulnerable. This includes ensuring meaningful participation by women in all activities, including peace-building efforts.
Donors, UN agencies, non-governmental organizations (NGOs), and local actors should strive to build and maintain cross-sectorial and long-term relationships. This requires multiyear donor investments in long-term development and peace building that are adaptable to the highly fluid and dynamic contexts of conflict and crisis. Funding priorities must follow a flexible and agile approach that reflects local perceptions, aspirations, and concerns.
States must live up to their responsibility to end protracted crises, but donor countries, key UN agencies, and regional bodies must also address conflict and its consequences, including through a food and nutrition security lens.
Given widespread violations of the right to food during the conflict, the recurring use of starvation as a method of warfare, and denial of humanitarian access, it is vital that the UN and its member states strengthen international humanitarian law and vigorously prosecute and sanction those who use starvation as a weapon of war.
Governments must actively follow up on the UN Food Systems Summit by addressing the structural challenges - including inequities, market failures, health risks, and environmental and climate threats - embedded in our food systems. Actions must put vulnerable people at the centre of food policies and build on existing responsibilities such as the Sustainable Development Goals, the Paris Agreement on climate change, and human rights treaties.
Governments must use opportunities, including the 2021 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 26) and the 2021 Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit, to reinforce their commitments to achieving Zero Hunger by investing in nutrition and resilience in fragile and conflict-affected contexts.

(Dr Matiur Rahman, Research Consultant, Human Development Research Centre, Dhaka).

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