Global Citizen is a community of people like you

People who want to learn about and take action on the world’s biggest challenges. Extreme poverty ends with you.

The world's 10 hungriest countries

Flickr-RIBI Image Library

There are over 870 million people in the world who are hungry right now. I'm not talking about could use a snack before lunch hungry, not even didn’t have time for breakfast hungry, but truly, continually, hungry.

Of these 870 million people, it's been estimated by the World Food Programme that 98% live in developing countries, countries that perversely produce most of the world’s food stocks. So why is this the case?

Here we look at the top 10 worst affected countries and see what obstacles are making them hungry and why:

1.Burundi

burundi.jpgImage: Imgur
73.4% of the population is believed to be undernourished.

Sitting between Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Tanzania, Burundi is a landlocked country, which means that on average it will experience 6% less economic growth than non landlocked countries, mainly due to the cost of transport for import and export transactions.

Over half of Burundi’s 9.85 million citizens live below the poverty line, with an estimated 35% of the population being out of work.

The main problem with Burundi is not that it can’t produce food, but that due to overpopulation, soil erosion, climate change, high food prices and an ongoing civil war, the country has to import more than they are exporting. In the last few years alone due to these factors, and the increase of internally displaced citizens who can’t produce their own food, the subsistence economy of Burundi has contracted by 25%.

Looking at the current economic and political climate of Burundi it is clear to see that poverty alone isn’t the cause of hunger, but that many external factors contribute to the hardship being endured.

2. Eritrea

Eritrea.jpgImage: Imgur

65.4% of population have been classified as undernourished.

Eritrea, which is located in the Horn of Africa, has experienced considerable growth to its economy in recent years, but unfortunately the effect of this hasn’t trickled down to its citizens or the food chain.

In 2004, agriculture employed nearly 80 percent of the population but accounted for only 12.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP). The agricultural sector has improved with the use of modern farming equipment and techniques; however, it is still compromised by a lack of financial services and investment.

Another big problem facing Eritrea is that, as a result of the war between Eritrea and Ethiopia, almost a quarter of the country’s most productive land remains unused. This can be attributed to a number of issues, but it’s largely because of the displacement of nearly 1 million Eritreans during the 1998-2000 Eritrean Ethiopian war, which left the country with a lack of skilled agricultural workers, and because of the widespread presence of land mines on the ground meaning that the plots are ruined.

3. Comoros

Comoros.jpgImage: Imgur
70% of the population are estimated to be undernourished.

Comoros, which is made up of 3 tiny islands of the coast of Mozambique, has a population of just 800,000 people. Around half of the population live below the poverty line.

The reason for such high numbers of poverty and undernourishment are varied. One of the biggest problems is that although there is a rapidly increasing young population entering into the agricultural workforce, their low educational levels mean that innovation and economic growth aren’t in correlation. 

Because of these factors it is essential that Comoros continues to receive foreign support in order to develop the right educational and economic infrastructures to be able to drive levels of poverty and undernourishment down. 

4. Timor Leste

Timor Leste.jpgImage: Imgur
38% of the population in Timor-Leste are undernourished.

Sitting between Indonesia and Australia Timor-Leste is a small island with a population of just over 1 million people. 

It continues to suffer the after-effects of a decades-long struggle for independence against Indonesian occupation, which severely damaged the country's infrastructure.

Private sector development has lagged due to human capital shortages, infrastructure weakness, an incomplete legal system, and an inefficient regulatory environment. 

Because of this nearly half of the population suffer from undernourishment, with Timor famously suffering through ‘hunger season’ between November and March when old stores have run out and new crops haven’t been harvested.

5. Sudan 

Sudan.jpgImage: Imgur
Around 25% of Sudan’s population is undernourished and hunger is on the rise.

Hunger is rife because Sudan suffers from several challenges, for much of Sudan's history the nation has suffered from rampant ethnic strife and has been plagued by internal conflicts including two civil wars and the War in the Darfur region.

Another reason that Sudan is suffering is because of the extreme climate conditions that the country suffers from, which is something that is unfortunately out of their control. 

6. Chad

Chad.jpgImage: Imgur

33.4% of population of the population in Chad are undernourished.

Poverty in Chad has been aggravated by numerous conflicts during its 50 years of independence. Tensions between the country’s northern and southern ethnic groups have further contributed to political and economic instability, and Chad’s landlocked location and desert climate in the north inhibit economic development. The Sahelian zone (central and eastern Chad) is particularly affected by chronic food deficits. Moreover, Chad is subject to spill-over effects from crises in neighboring Sudan and the Central African Republic. It is estimated that there are 330,000 refugees in Chad, which puts additional pressure on the limited resources of the already highly vulnerable local population.

Chad relies heavily on external assistance for its food security, especially in the Sahelian zone. Cereal production is heavily affected by erratic rains, cyclical droughts, locust infestations and poor farming practices. The 2011 drought, which resulted in a 30 percent deficit in the population’s cereal needs, was then followed by a severe food and nutrition crisis in 2012.

7.Yemen Republic

Yemen Republic.jpgImage: Imgur
Undernourished: 32.4% of population

Yemen has had an extreme change in it’s food security over the last 10 years. Because of large-scale displacement, civil conflict, political instability, high food prices, endemic poverty and influxes of refugee and migrants. In 2013, the World Food Programme is aiming to provide almost 5 million people in 16 governorates with food assistance and is working to build communities’ resilience. In 2013, WFP conducted an Updated Food Security Monitoring Survey which found that 43 percent (10.5 million people) of the population is food insecure. Some 4.5 million of those people were found to be severely food insecure, unable to buy or produce the food they need, and 6 million are moderately food insecure.

Child malnutrition rates are among the highest in the world with close to half of Yemen’s children under 5 years, that is two million children, stunted and one million acutely malnourished.

8. Ethiopia

Ethiopia.jpgImage: Imgur
In Ethiopia an alarming 40.2% of population are undernourished.

The 2011 Horn of Africa drought left 4.5 million people in Ethiopia in need of emergency food assistance.  Pastoralist areas in southern and south-eastern Ethiopia were most severely affected by the drought.  At the same time, cereal markets experienced a supply shock, and food prices rose substantially, resulting in high food insecurity among poor people.  By the beginning of 2012, the overall food security situation had stabilized thanks to the start of the Meher harvest after the June-to-September rains -- resulting in improved market supply -- and to sustained humanitarian assistance. While the number of new arrivals in refugee camps has decreased significantly since the height of the Horn of Africa crisis, Ethiopia still continues to receive refugees from Somalia, Sudan and South Sudan.

The Humanitarian Requirements Document issued by the government and humanitarian partners in September 2012 estimates that 3.76 million people require relief food assistance from August to December 2012. The total net emergency food and non-food requirement amounts to US$189,433,303.

Ethiopia remains one of the world’s least developed countries, ranked 174 out of 187 in the 2011 UNDP Human Development Index.

9. Madagascar

Madagascar.jpgImage: Imgur
33.4% of the population of Madagascar are undernourished.

The country is prone to natural disasters such as cyclones, flooding and drought. In 2013, the island faced its worst ever locust plague, which hampered agricultural production and threatened food security.

The increasing fragility of the ecosystem, due to deforestation and poor land management, is a major cause of the increased vulnerability to shocks and related food insecurity. Deforestation has become a major concern: 85 percent of its rainforests have been lost due to the use of wood and charcoal for cooking, and slash and burn agricultural practices.

Approximately 28 percent of rural households suffer from food insecurity - of which 2.7 percent are severely food insecure and nearly 25 percent moderately food insecure. In total, about four million people are facing hunger  in 2013. The food security of a further 9.6 million people could deteriorate as food prices increase during the lean season,when crops are planted but not yet harvested. Also of concern is the cyclone season, which runs from November to March.

10. Zambia

Zambia.jpgImage: Imgur
47.4% of the population are under nourished 

Numerous challenges burden the country, including high rates of malnutrition, poverty, food insecurity, HIV and AIDS and malaria. While Zambia has reduced the rate of extreme poverty from 58 percent (1991) to 42.7 percent (2010), extreme poverty continues to be much higher in rural areas (57 percent) compared to urban areas (13 percent ). Zambia's food security challenges are worsened by a high dependence on rain-fed agriculture and the absence of market incentives to encourage a fundamental shift from subsistence farming.

Consequently, access to food is a challenge for many. According to the Zambia Vulnerability Assessment Committee, the number of people at risk of food insecurity is up from about 63,000 in 2012 to about 209,000 in 2013. This is attributed to localized poor crop production due to poor weather conditions in some parts of the country.

It calculated a ‘global hunger’ score for countries by looking at the percentage of the population that is undernourished, children younger than five who are underweight, and the percentage of children dying before the age of five.