DESPITE reports of a bumper harvest last year, Zimbabwe is ranked eighth out of 20 African countries that have “serious hunger” levels, according to the 2014 Global Hunger Index (GHI) released this week by the International Food Policy Research Institute, Welthungerhilfe and Concern Worldwide.
Serious hunger is GHI’s third rating after extremely alarming hunger which has two countries, Eritrea and Burundi.
Ten African countries have alarming cases of hunger according to GHI.
The organisation said two billion people, mostly from Africa, were suffering from “hidden hunger”. The affected people get little essential vitamins and minerals from the foods they eat such that they remain undernourished, even as levels of hunger in many developing countries were decreasing.
While there has been progress in developing countries in terms of food security, the level of hunger in Zimbabwe — whose chaotic land reform programme has resulted in farm productivity decline — is still considered “serious” and records a GHI of 16,5, ranking Zimbabwe eighth out of the 20 African countries in the serious category.
The GHI examines levels of hunger in 120 developing countries and countries in transition and scores them based on three equally weighted indicators: the proportion of people who are undernourished, the proportion of children under five who are underweight, and the mortality rate of children under five.
According to the GHI, the proportion of people undernourished in Zimbabwe is 30,5% while the under-five mortality rate is at 9%, and prevalence of underweight in children under five years is at 10,1%.
According to the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey (MICS), recently launched by the Zimbabwe National Statistics Agency (Zimstat), 27% of the children are stunted, 11,2% of children are underweight, 3,3% are wasted and 3,6% overweight.
The GHI index adds weight to the overview of Zimbabwe done by the World Food Programme this year, which revealed rural poverty had increased to 76% this year from 63% in 2003 as most rural households failed to produce enough food to meet their needs.
In addition, 72% of the country’s population lives below the national poverty datum line or less than US$1,25 a day, while some 30% of the rural poor are considered to be “food poor” or “extremely poor”.
Last month, the University of Zimbabwe’s Institute of Environmental Studies report titled Specialised Urban Poverty Study in 2013, which focused on two low-income suburbs of Harare, revealed urban centres were experiencing high levels of poverty. The report said one out of 10 children is living in extreme poverty.