Global Hunger Index 2023: Where Does Bangladesh Stand?

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The 18th edition of the Global Hunger Index (GHI), a peer-reviewed yearly assessment, co-published by the nonprofit NGOs Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe, was released last month—depicting the current situation of the global fight against hunger. The holistic approach of the index is to achieve SDG-2- “Zero Hunger,” worldwide by 2030 through evaluating annual successes and failures. The yearly report is released to call attention to the areas of the world with the highest rates of hunger and the greatest need for effort. It also serves to promote awareness by providing comparative statistics at different levels. The new report brought out a grim picture of the global fight against hunger and rang bell about the catastrophic situation in several countries. Around three-quarters of a billion people go to bed hungry every day, and the most recent Global Hunger Index shows that not much progress has been achieved in eliminating hunger since 2015. Young people, especially young women are most affected by the situation.

In the 2023 index, Bangladesh has achieved visible improvement from the past years in its fight against hunger as it has ranked 81st among 125 countries, with a score of 19.0, improved from 19.1 from the previous year, that indicates moderate level of hunger in the country. The country also is in a better position compared to its South Asian members like Afghanistan, India and Pakistan.

Understanding the Criteria/Global Hunger Index

The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is a tool for comprehensively measuring and tracking hunger at various global, regional, and national levels over recent years and decades, with the goal of inciting action to eliminate global hunger. GHI scores are calculated based on a formula combining four indicators— Undernourishment, Child wasting, Child Stunting, Child Mortality— that together capture the multidimensional nature of hunger.

Figure: Indicators of GHI

Each country’s GHI score is classified by severity, from low to extremely alarming. Based on the values of the four indicators, a GHI score is calculated on a 100-point scale reflecting the severity of hunger, where 0 is the best possible score (no hunger) and 100 is the worst. A higher score indicates a higher rate of hunger, while a lower score indicates improvement or a lower rate of hunger. Scores above 50 are considered highly alarming, 35-49.9 alarming, 20-34.9 serious, 10-19.9 moderate, and below 9.99 is regarded as low hunger or a good situation.

Global Hunger Index 2023–A Snapshot

According to this year’s Global Hunger Index (GHI), not much has changed in terms of world hunger reduction from 2015, despite notable advancements in a few specific nations. The globally GHI score for 2023 is 18.3- considered moderate, is less than even one point lower than the global GHI score of 19.1 for 2015. In addition, the number of undernourished individuals has increased from 572 million to around 735 million since 2017. The world’s most hungry regions include South Asia and South of the Sahara; each has a GHI score of 27.0, which indicates serious hunger. These two areas have continuously experienced the highest rates of hunger over the previous two decades. While both areas saw significant advancements between 2000 and 2015, beyond that year, such gains have all but stopped, reflecting a global trend. Despite many political assurances and international conferences, there has been no success in reversing this trend.  With only seven years left to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), social and economic inequality have worsened, and previous progress in reducing hunger in many countries has slowed or reversed due to the compounding effects of climate change, conflicts, economic shocks, the global pandemic, and the Russia-Ukraine war.

The report assesses the nutritional situation in 125 countries, 43 of which continue to record serious or alarming levels of hunger. In 18 countries, hunger has grown since 2015. 58 countries have very little chance of achieving a low level of hunger by 2030. According to this year’s ranking, Belarus, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Chile, China, Croatia, Estonia, Georgia, Hungary, Kuwait, and Latvia are the top 10 nations with the least amount of hunger. The following nine nations have very high rates of hunger: South Sudan, Burundi, Somalia, Central African Republic, Madagascar, Yemen, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Lesotho, and Niger.

Figure: Global and Regional GHI Score in 2000, 2008, 2015 and 2023.

Achievements of Bangladesh

In the ongoing battle against hunger, Bangladesh has achieved significant progress by securing the 81st spot among 125 nations in the 2023 Global Hunger Index. In the last few years, the country has consistently surpassed its neighbors in the list, indicating its amazing progress in eradicating hunger from society. It has improved slightly from 19.1 points in the previous year’s index to 19 points this year, placing it in a little better position than its South Asian counterparts- Pakistan (26.6), India (28.7), and Afghanistan (30.6). According to the report, the country has shown a significant improvement of 25.5% from 2015 when its GHI score was 26.2, and it was considered serious.

Figure: GHI Score Trend for Bangladesh

Reducing the number of malnourished and stunted births has been the primary factor in Bangladesh’s improvement in the hunger index. Among the 7 nations that have successfully lowered their index score by 5 points or more since 2015, Bangladesh is one of them. From 2015, child mortality, child stunting and undernourishment rates, all have decreased. Once a high percentage, child wasting has now decreased to 9.8%, down from 14.4% in 2015. The country’s steady decline in child stunting in recent decades is also a remarkable success. Improvements in parental education, pro-poor economic growth, increasing health and sanitation, and demographic dynamics are all contributing to the rise in household economic development and eventually the index. Nonetheless, the present 28.0% child stunting rate is still considered high enough to be of public health concern.

Figure: Trend for Indicator Values–Bangladesh

Hunger has persistently haunted our nation since its independence, presenting a challenge that, despite recent advancements in the Global Hunger Index, remains deeply rooted. Bangladesh has indeed made commendable progress in improving food security, but significant hurdles persist. The specter of the climate crisis looms large, with rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and floods posing a growing threat to food and nutrition security. Moreover, the surge in food inflation adds another layer of complexity to the problem. Although the country has gained better position in comparison to its South Asian counterparts like India and Pakistan, other small nations like Nepal, Sri Lanka and Myanmar have fared way better. The policy makers should take a comprehensive and proactive approach to address hunger and meet the need of a sustained society. Otherwise, persistent undernutrition stands as a formidable and intricate barrier, casting shadows on the vision of a thriving Bangladesh.

– Wahid Uzzaman Sifat is a Research Intern at the KRF Center for Bangladesh and Global Affairs (CBGA).

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