2012 : Global Hunger Index

The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is a multidimensional statistical tool used to describe the state of countries’ hunger situation. The GHI measures progress and failures in the global fight against hunger. The GHI is updated once a year. The Index was adopted and further developed by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), and was first published in 2006 with the Welthungerhilfe, a German non-profit organization (NGO). Since 2007, the Irish NGO Concern Worldwide joined the group as co-publisher.


The Index ranks countries on a 100 point scale, with 0 being the best score (“no hunger”) and 100 being the worst, though neither of these extremes is achieved in practice. The higher the score, the worse the food situation of a country. Values less than 4.9 reflect “low hunger”, values between 5 and 9.9 reflect “moderate hunger”, values between 10 and 19.9 indicate a “serious”, values between 20 and 29.9 are “alarming”, and values exceeding 30 are “extremely alarming” hunger problem.


  • The GHI combines three equally weighted indicators:
  • The proportion of the undernourished as a percentage of the population
  • The prevalence of underweight children under the age of five
  • The mortality rate of children under the age of five.

2012 Global Hunger Index Report

  • The 2012 GHI was calculated for 120 developing countries and countries in transition, 57 of which with a serious or worse hunger situation.
  • In addition to the ranking, the GHI report focuses every year on one main topic.
  • In 2012, the GHI report deals with the question how food security and sustainable use of natural resources can be achieved, when the natural sources of food become scarcer and scarcer: Ensuring sustainable food security under land, water, and energy stresses.
  • The data used for the 2012 GHI are for the period from 2005 to 2010 – the most recent available global data for the three components of the GHI.
  • The data on the proportion of undernourished come from the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN (FAO) and IFPRI (estimates) are for 2006-2008.Data on underweight of children under 5 are based on data from 2005-2010 collected by the World Health Organization (WHO), UNICEF and MEASURE DHS and also includes estimates by the authors.
  • Data on child mortality are for 2010 from UNICEF. The 2012 GHI, the recalculated base value of the 1990 GHI as well as the values of 1996 and 2001 are not directly comparable to previously calculated GHI values. The values reflect the latest revised data for the three components of the GHI and include estimate where original source data were not available, based on the most recent data available.
Outcome and Observations

The 2012 GHI report shows how the hunger situation has developed since 1990 at global, regional, and national levels. Globally, the GHI fell over one fourth from 19.7 in 1990 to 14.7 in 2012.The 2012 index points out that Bangladesh, India and Timor-Leste have the highest prevalence of underweight children under five, more than 40 per cent in each of the three countries.

India’s Position in the Global Hunger Report

The report suggests that Bangladesh has overtaken India on a range of social indicators, including how fast it has reduced child mortality. In 1990, India’s GHI score as monitored by IFPRI was 30.3, which fell to 22.6 in 1996. But again rose to 24.2 in 2001 and stood at 22.9 in 2012, much closer to 1996 levels.

  • Overall, India is ranked 65th among 79 major countries where hunger is prevalent, much below smaller nations like Sri Lanka, Indonesia, Thailand, Pakistan and Nepal.In India, 43.5 per cent of children under five are underweight, which accounts for almost two-thirds of the country’s alarmingly high GHI score
  • From 2005-2010, India ranked second to last on child underweight — below Ethiopia, Niger, Nepal, and Bangladesh.
  • The report says that though India has worked to improve food security and nutrition in recent years through government’s nutrition-relevant social programmes, the effectiveness remains uncertain for lack of updated data.
  • On the other hand, China has lowered its levels of hunger and under-nutrition through a strong commitment to poverty reduction, social security networks, nutrition and health interventions, and improved access to safe water, sanitation, and education.

The report says South Asia has the highest regional 2012 GHI score — 22.5 — thus the highest hunger levels of the regions covered in the Index. Yet compared with the region’s 1990 GHI score, its 2012 GHI score is 26 per cent lower, indicating improvement in the region’s hunger situation. In Sub-Saharan Africa the index equally exceeds 20 and also has to be considered alarming. The lowest value can be found in Eastern Europe, where hunger is not very prevalent. Here, the report shows the biggest improvements together with Southeast Asia and Latin America. In the three regions the GHI decreased by 40% or more since 1990.

Focus of the GHI 2012: Pressures on land, water and energy resources

Increasingly, Hunger is related to how we use land, water and energy. The growing scarcity of these resources puts more and more pressure on food security. Several factors contribute to an increasing shortage of natural resources:

  • Demographic change: The world population is expected to be over 9 billion by 2050. Additionally, more and more people live in cities. Urban populations feed themselves differently than inhabitants of rural areas; they tend to consume less staple foods and more meat and dairy products.
  • Higher income and non-sustainable use of resources: As the global economy grows, wealthy people consume more food and goods, which have to be produced with a lot of water and energy. They can afford not to be efficient and wasteful in their use of resources.
  • Bad policies and weak institutions: When policies, for example energy policy, are not tested for the consequences they have on the availability of land and water it can lead to failures. An example are the biofuel policies of industrialized countries: As corn and sugar are increasingly used for the production of fuels, there is less land and water for the production of food.


The analysis of the global conditions leads the authors of the GHI 2012 to recommend several policy actions:

  • Securing land and water rights
  • Gradual lowering of subsidies
  • Creation of a positive macroeconomic framework
  • Investment in agriculture technology development to promote a more efficient use of land, water and energy
  • Support for approaches, that lead to a more efficient use of land, water and energy along the whole value chain
  • Preventing and overuse of natural resources through monitoring strategies for water, land and energy, and agricultural systems
  • Improvement of the access to education for women and the strengthening of their reproductive rights to address demographic change
  • Increase incomes, reduce social and economic inequality and promotion of sustainable lifestyles
  • Climate change mitigation and adaptation through a reorientation of agriculture