Malawi GHI 2017: Sustained improvement yet persistent hunger

Last week, IFPRI, Welthungerhilfe, and Concern Worldwide launched the 2017 Global Hunger Index. The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is a tool developed to comprehensively measure and track hunger at global, regional and national levels. Each year, the GHI is calculated and used to measure progress. By tracking progress over time, we hope the GHI can help to highlight effective policies and programs and incite action to reduce hunger, in Malawi and beyond.

The GHI ranks countries based on four key indicators: undernourishment, child mortality, child wasting and child stunting, with higher scores indicating worse hunger. In 1992, Malawi was rated as having “extremely alarming” hunger levels, with a GHI score 58.2 —among the 10 highest hunger scores in the world. Today, Malawi has reduced its GHI score by more than half to 27.2.

Regionally, Malawi fares slightly better than some of its southern African neighbors. Zambia suffers from “alarming” hunger levels, with a score of 38.2, followed by Zimbabwe (33.8), Mozambique (30.5) and Tanzania (28.8). In all of Africa south of the Sahara, a GHI score of 29.4 indicates that “serious” hunger persists, in part because of stubbornly high levels of undernourishment, rising food prices, droughts, and political instability. Africa south of the Sahara did achieve the greatest decline of any region in absolute GHI values between 2000 and 2017, though —a 14-point drop.

Recent improvements in Malawi’s GHI score were driven by declines in the prevalence of stunting among children under 5 years old. Stunting is an indicator of chronic undernutrition, and has effects on the future physical, cognitive and income-earning capacity of affected children. As of 2016, roughly 37% of Malawian children under five were stunted, or short for their age. This is a significant improvement from the 48.8% registered in the 2006-10 period.

However, Malawi is still ranked 90 out of 119 countries, and is one of 44 countries with “serious” hunger levels. This year’s data shows that roughly 26% of Malawians did not have sufficient food to meet their needs in recent years (known as the prevalence of undernourishment). The GHI also shows that between 2007-09 and 2014-16, this number increased from 22.4 to 25.9% of the population. There was also a slight increase in the percentage of children who were too thin for their height (wasted), from 1.8 to 2.7%. These numbers indicate a need for continued emphasis on child malnutrition and hunger in Malawi if progress is to be maintained.

At the end of this month, the IFPRI Malawi office will host its second Compact2025 Forum, Moving From Relief to Resilience. Compact2025 was launched in November 2015, with the goal of ending hunger and undernutrition by 2025, using evidence-based support and innovation to accelerate progress on these issues. This year’s forum will focus on how Malawi can move from relief to resilience and “break the cycle” of food shortages followed by humanitarian response. Stay tuned for more details on the event, taking place on October 31, 2017.

Global Hunger Index 2017 Report
GHI 2016 Malawi Case Study