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Annual Global Hunger Index : Global Hunger Levels Rise for the first time in ten years ; Africa tops the list

The index is based on levels of hunger in the general population, and rates of wasting, stunting and deaths among children under 5 years old.

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A mother holds onto her emaciated infant at an emergency feeding clinic in Maradi, Niger. (VOA)
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Rome, October 12, 2017 : Global hunger has fallen more than a quarter since 2000, but conflict and climate shocks are beginning to reverse these gains, an annual global hunger index said.

Nearly half of the 119 countries surveyed had “serious,” “alarming” or “extremely alarming” hunger levels between 2012 and 2016, with war-torn Central African Republic worst affected, followed by Chad, Sierra Leone, Madagascar and Zambia.

“Conflict- and climate-related shocks are at the heart of this problem,” said Dominic MacSorley, chief executive of Concern, which compiled the report along with the International Food Policy Research Institute and Welthungerhilfe.

About half of the populations in the hungriest countries were short of food, it said.

South Sudan and Somalia, which are at risk of renewed famine, were among 13 countries excluded from the index because of lack of data.

The United Nations said last month that global hunger levels had risen for the first time in more than a decade, now affecting 11 percent of the world’s population, or 815 million people.

Famine struck parts of South Sudan earlier this year, the U.N. said, and there is a high risk that it could return there, as well as develop in other countries hit by conflict: northeast Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen.

Yemen came sixth in the index as its hunger crisis has spiked since 2015, when civil war erupted and the data cover the period 2012 to 2016.

ALSO READ Global Hunger on Rise Again: UN Food Agencies

Although most of Nigeria is relatively food secure, the eight-year Islamist Boko Haram insurgency has left millions in the northeast at risk of starvation.

“We must build the resilience of communities on the ground, but we must also bolster public and political solidarity internationally,” MacSorley said in a statement.

The survey found that 14 countries — including Senegal, Azerbaijan, Peru, Panama, Brazil and China — had made significant improvements since 2000.

The index is based on levels of hunger in the general population, and rates of wasting, stunting and deaths among children under 5 years old.

Women, girls and ethnic minorities are most at risk of hunger, which causes nearly half of deaths in under 5s, it said.

“The world needs to act as one community with the shared goal of ensuring not a single child goes to bed hungry each night and no one is left behind,” MacSorley said. (VOA)

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Artificial Intelligence May Aid Solving ‘Global Hunger’

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Subsistence farmer Joice Chimedza harvests maize on her small plot in Norton, a farming area outside Zimbabwe's capital, Harare, May 10, 2016. VOA

Despite a global abundance of food, a United Nations report says 815 million people, 11 percent of the world’s population, went hungry in 2016. That number seems to be rising.

Poverty is not the only reason, however, people are experiencing food insecurity.

“Increasingly we’re also seeing hunger caused by the displacement related to conflict, natural disaster as well, but particularly there’s been an uptick in the number of people displaced in the world,” said Robert Opp, director of Innovation and Change Management at the United Nations World Food Program.

ALSO READ: ‘Artificial Intelligence yet to make its mark in India’ 

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Humanitarian organizations are turning to new technologies such as AI, or artificial intelligence, to fight global food insecurity. Pixabay

“What AI offers us right now, is an ability to augment human capacity. So, we’re not talking about replacing human beings and things. We’re talking about doing more things and doing them better than we could by just human capacity alone,” Opp said.

Analyze data, get it to farmers

Artificial intelligence can analyze large amounts of data to locate areas affected by conflict and natural disasters and assist farmers in developing countries. The data can then be accessed by farmers from their smartphones.

“The average smartphone that exists in the world today is more powerful than the entire Apollo space program 50 years ago. So just imagine a farmer in Africa who has a smartphone has much more computing power than the entire Apollo space program,” said Pranav Khaitan, engineering lead at Google AI.

“When you take your special data and soil mapping data and use AI to do the analysis, you can send me the information. So in a nutshell, you can help me [know] when to plant, what to plant, how to plant,” said Uyi Stewart, director of Strategy Data and Analytics in Global Development of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.

“When you start combining technologies, AI, robotics, sensors, that’s when we see magic start to happen on farms for production, to increase crop yields,” said Zenia Tata, vice president for Global Impact Strategy at XPRIZE, an organization that creates incentivized competitions so innovative ideas and technologies can be developed to benefit humanity.

“It all comes down to developing these techniques and making it available to these farmers and people on the ground,” Khaitan said.

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However, the developing world is often the last to get new technologies. Pixabay

Breaking down barriers

As Stewart said, “815 million people are hungry and I can bet you that nearly 814 million out of the 815 million do not have a smartphone.”

Even when the technology is available, other barriers still exist.

“A lot of these people that we talked about that are hungry, they don’t speak English, so when we get insights out of this technology how are we going to pass it onto them?” Stewart said.

ALSO READ: Stephen Hawking believes Technology could end Poverty and Disease, says Artificial Intelligence could be the Worst or Best things for Humanity

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While it may take time for new technologies to reach the developing world, many hope such advances will ultimately trickle-down to farmers in regions that face food insecurity. Pixabay

“You’ve invented the technology. The big investments have gone in. Now you’re modifying it, which brings the cost down as well,” said Teddy Bekele, vice president of Ag Technology at U.S.-based agribusiness and food company Land O’Lakes.

“So, I think three to four years maybe we’ll have some of the things we have here to be used there [in the developing world] as well,” Bekele predicted.

Those who work in humanitarian organizations said entrepreneurs must look outside their own countries to adapt the new technologies to combat global hunger, or come up with a private, public model. Farmers will need the tools and training so they can harness the power of artificial intelligence to help feed the hungry in the developing world. VOA