Hunger remains at ‘serious’ levels: report
MYANMAR continues to have “serious” levels of hunger, comparable to North Korea, Rwanda and Nepal, according to a recently released global index.
While the country has made some strides since it was first evaluated in 2008, Myanmar continues to have among the worst rates of hunger in the Southeast Asia region, and ranks among the bottom 50 countries in the world.
This year Myanmar received a score of 22 on the Global Hunger Index, where values from 20 to 34.9 indicate serious hunger – any worse represents “alarming” levels. The evaluation noted that the percentage of overall undernourishment has dropped significantly from 26.4 percent in 2008 to 14.2pc in 2016 but stunting remains prevalent at 31pc of the children under five years old.
The index, released last week by the International Food Policy Research Institute, evaluates a country’s hunger based on four components: undernourishment, stunted growth in children, low weight for children and child mortality. The calculation focuses on children as food insecurity and limited access to nutritious food puts those under age five at the most risk.
Myanmar’s ranking this year was comparable to Iraq which also scored 22, and slightly improved over Togo at 22.4 and Mauritania 22.1, but worse off than Nepal, 21.9, and Kenya, 21.9.
According to the World Food Programme, while a greater population in the country experiences food stability, those on the margins of society, and physically on the borderlands, continue to suffer from extreme poverty and hunger.
The WFP highlights displaced Muslim communities in northern Rakhine State and families transitioning from opium farming to other work avenues in Shan State as just some of Myanmar’s subgroups who are disproportionately at risk.
Moreover, the WFP highlights Myanmar’s susceptibility to natural disasters, such as 2008’s Cyclone Nargis which left thousands in the Ayerawady Region in a state of devastation, as one of the non-political factors involved in widespread hunger.
Though Myanmar has successfully cut its score in half compared to hunger rates in 2000, the report recommends the government and NGOs step up action to reach zero hunger levels by the global 2030 target.
In addition to prioritising sustainable development policies across agriculture, health, education and sanitation sectors, the report also urges to leave no one behind by addressing inequalities in “the most excluded groups”, including women, ethnic minorities and children.
“Ending global hunger is certainly possible,” said IFPRI director general Shenggen Fan in the report. “But it’s up to all of us that we set the priorities right to ensure that governments, the private sector and civil society devote the time and resources necessary to meet this important goal.”