'Serious' hunger levels in Namibia

17 October 2019 | Disasters

Faced with one of the worst droughts in a century, Namibia has a serious hunger problem, a global report tracking the state of hunger worldwide has found.

In the 2019 Global Hunger Index, Namibia ranks 84th out of 117 countries.

The report, prepared by Welthungerhilfe and Concern Worldwide, says Namibia is among the 43 countries that have “serious levels of hunger”. The index scores countries on a 100-point “severity scale”, where zero is the best score (no hunger) and 100 is the worst.

With a score of 24.3, Namibia suffers from a level of hunger that is “serious”, according to the report.

However Namibia has managed to improve its score since 2010 when it stood at 30.9. In 2005 the country scored 28.4 and in 2000 Namibia's score was 30.7.

Namibia's hunger score is higher than war-torn countries such as Iraq and Iran, which have scores of 18.7 and 7.9 respectively.

The index, which is now in its 13th year, ranks countries based on four key indicators, namely undernourishment, child mortality, child wasting and child stunting.

According to the report, the proportion of undernourished people in Namibia stands at 27.3%. This has decreased from 37.4% since 2010. The prevalence of wasting in children under the age of five years has slightly decreased from 6.9% in 2010 to 6.5% in 2019.

The prevalence of stunting in children under five has also decreased slightly, from 25.8% in 2010 to 23.9% this year. The under-five mortality rate has decreased from 5.3% in 2010 to 4.4% in 2019.

At the regional level, South Asia and Africa South of the Sahara have the highest scores in the world this year, at 29.3 and 28.4 respectively. These scores indicate serious levels of hunger.

“Africa South of the Sahara is the region of the world with the highest percentage of the population employed in agriculture, at 55%, yet agriculture in the region faces enormous challenges.

“Governments invest too little in agriculture. Most countries fail to meet the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme target of directing 10% of government spending to agriculture,” the report states.

The report further says farmers' use of agricultural inputs is inadequate—fertiliser use, for example, is lower in Africa South of the Sahara than in any other region, while the use of irrigation is very low, and most farmers are dependent on rain-fed agriculture, leaving them extremely vulnerable to drought and changing rain patterns. In contrast, Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, Latin America and the Caribbean, East and Southeast Asia, and the Near East and North Africa range from 6.6 to 13.3, indicating low or moderate hunger levels.

The Central African Republic, with a score of 53.6, suffers from a level of hunger that is extremely alarming, while four others - Chad (44.2), Madagascar (41.5), Yemen (45.9), and Zambia (45.9) - suffer from levels of hunger that are alarming.

The number of hungry people globally increased from 785 million in 2015 to 822 million in 2018.

The index shows that while the world has made gradual progress in reducing hunger on a global scale since the year 2000, this progress has been uneven. Hunger persists in many countries, and in some instances progress is even being reversed.

World Food Day was observed yesterday and Namibia celebrated the event at the Olufuko Centre in the Outapi Constituency.

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