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Global Hunger Index Shows Importance Of Addressing Childhood Malnutrition

“The Global Hunger Index released Monday finds that many developing countries primarily in South Asia and Latin America have made significant progress in reducing hunger. But continued improvement in the rates of hunger – and in addressing the development problems that result from hunger – depends on a universal focus on early childhood nutrition,” the Christian Science Monitor reports (LaFranchi, 10/11).

The report, which was released ahead of World Food Day on Saturday, was published by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Welthungerhilfe and Concern Worldwide, according to an IFPRI press release. The index includes calculations for “122 developing and transition countries for which data on the three components of hunger are available,” the release states. Those indicators are equally weighted and include: “the proportion of people who are undernourished, the proportion of children under five who are underweight, and the child mortality rate” (10/11).

To drive down hunger, countries should focus on the prevalence of underweight children, “because it accounts for nearly half the global hunger score, said report co-author Marie Ruel, director of IFPRI’s Poverty, Health and Nutrition division,” Agence France-Presse reports. Ruel said governments should especially focus on the first 1,000 days from conception through age 2. “Those 1,000 days … are a key time because damage done by undernutrition in early life is largely irreversible,” she said (Zeitvogel, 10/11).

The index assigns countries a score between 0 and 100, “with zero equaling no hunger,” France24 reports. “The war-ravaged Democratic Republic of Congo is ranked the worst in the world, scoring above 40 and categorized as having ‘extremely alarming’ hunger levels,” the news service writes (Prasad, 10/11). “A score higher than 20 indicated ‘alarming’ levels of hunger and above 30, ‘extremely alarming’ hunger,” AFP notes. Aside from the DRC, “[t]he other three countries with extremely alarming hunger levels were Burundi, Eritrea and Chad. All have been involved in simmering or open conflict for many years,” the news service reports. “With the exception of Haiti and Yemen, all 25 countries with ‘alarming’ levels of hunger were in sub-Saharan Africa or Asia. … Eight of the nine countries in which the hunger index went up between 1990 and 2010 were in sub-Saharan Africa. The ninth was North Korea.”

The index found that Asia and Latin America reduced “their hunger indices by more than 40 percent since 1990,” AFP writes. “A handful of African countries also substantially reduced hunger – Angola, Ethiopia, Ghana and Mozambique – but in most of sub-Saharan Africa, the problem worsened or remained stagnant” (10/11).

African Governments Should Be Wary Of Foreign Large-Scale Land Deals, FAO Official Says

Paul Mathieu – a senior officer for climate, energy and tenure division at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) – warned African governments about hastily accepting big land lease deals with foreign investors, which could exacerbate poverty and social tension, Reuters reports.

“His comments follow an FAO study that looked at five countries in sub-Saharan Africa where at least 2.5 million hectares (6.2 million acres) of land have been allocated to large-scale investors since 2004. These and other deals are raising the hackles of rights groups who argue that the ‘land grab’ trend is reducing access to food for some of the world’s poorest people,” according to the news service.

“Land has become a very visible and hot issue because many actors have realised that it is going to be scarce and a very valuable asset in the future,” said Mathieu. “What is important is to make well-informed choices and not to rush quickly to allocate large tracts of land,” he added.

“This is and will be a tricky issue for governments to deal with as some external investors will say they’ve brought in a lot of capital and also want a lot of land. It is not easy but it is possible,” he added. According to Mathieu, research conducted by FAO and partners, found that 2,492,684 hectares – “an area about the size of Luxembourg – had been allocated in large deals between 2004 and 2009 in Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Madagascar and Sudan alone,” Reuters writes. Mathieu said the biggest single deal was for 452,500 hectares for a biofuel project in Madagascar (Musa, 10/11).

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Filling the need for trusted information on national health issues, the Kaiser Family Foundation is a nonprofit organization based in Menlo Park, California.