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Smarter use of land, water and energy is needed for the world to continue to make gains against hunger, the International Food Policy Research Institute said today as it released its annual Global Hunger Index.
The gauge shows 20 countries with levels of hunger that are “extremely alarming” or “alarming,” down from 26 last year and 43 in 1990 when the institute began compiling the index. Burundi, Eritrea and Haiti scored the worst, while the Democratic Republic of Congo, a perennial poor performer, didn’t have enough data to be ranked. The bulk of low-scoring countries are in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
“Demographic changes, rising incomes and associated consumption patterns, and climate change, alongside persistent poverty and inadequate policies and institutions, are all placing serious pressure on natural resources,” the Institute said in the report. “There is enough planet for all of us -- if we don’t waste it.”
The worst U.S. drought in more than 50 years pushed the price of corn, the country’s most valuable crop, to a record $8.49 a bushel in August. Soybeans reached an all-time high last month while wheat touched its highest levels since 2008 in July. World food prices saw their biggest monthly increase since 2009 in July and are up 2.4 percent for the year.
The higher prices have destabilized family food budgets and increased hunger over the past five years. A 40 percent run-up in global costs pushed as many as 150 million people into extreme poverty in 2007 and 2008, while record-high prices in 2011 touched off food riots in North Africa and the Middle East, the report said.
Spending on agricultural research needs to increase, focusing on investments that reduce hunger and malnutrition, such as in better-yielding seeds and education for women, which lowers birth rates, the institute said in the report.
“Eradicating hunger in the near and medium term is a complex, multifaceted challenge,” the report said.
The most progress in reducing hunger since 1990 has been in Angola, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Malawi, Nicaragua, Niger and Vietnam, according to the report. The index is calculated using the proportion of a country’s population that is undernourished, the prevalence of underweight children and the child mortality rate, with a focus on developing nations.
Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe, two other anti- hunger organizations, collaborated in publishing the report.
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