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A new report on global hunger raises serious alarms about the continuing high levels of hunger in a number of African countries. The eight countries worldwide reported to still suffer the most from a lack of food are all found in the sub-Saharan Africa region.
The Global Hunger Index released on Wednesday showed that 29 countries globally are classified as having "alarming" or "extremely alarming" levels of hunger. Twenty-one of those countries are located in Africa.
The researchers based their study on a composite figure derived from a nation's rates of child malnutrition, child mortality, and calorie-deficiency among the population, which it cited as lead indicators of hunger.
The report found that taken as whole regions, South Asia and sub-Saharan Africa fared as the world's worst. The Democratic Republic of Congo and Burundi were listed as the two nation's with the highest levels of hunger ranked by the researchers.
Speaking in Nairobi, Suresh Babu, a senior researcher for the International Food Policy Research Institute, one of the groups behind the report, said that Africa's ongoing food crisis stems largely from an undeveloped agricultural capacity.
"In sub-Saharan Africa the serious problem is because of food production. Most of the countries are vulnerable because they have agriculture that is dependent on rain-fed for agriculture. And that is a very vulnerable situation," said Babu.
The report also blamed poor governance, political instability, and upwardly skewed child mortality numbers due to the region's high rates of AIDS for the region's poor ranking.
Eastern Africa countries performed especially poorly in the hunger index, with nearly all the country's in the area ranked as having "alarming" levels of hunger or above.
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The region's ranking appears to underrepresent the severity of the situation. Sudan barely misses the threshold for "alarming" status, but an asterisk next to its ranking suggests that the underlying data for the war-ravaged nation was considered unreliable by the researchers.
Somalia, where the World Food Program says about half of the population is currently at risk of starvation, is not even ranked.
The region's food crisis has mostly worsened since 2007, the year the report's figures are based upon. The region is currently suffering the effects of a devastating and wide-arching drought that the WFP says has left 23 million across the region in immediate need of food aid.
When the data was collected, the region had also yet to feel the full effects of the global food crisis, which has contributed to the skyrocketing of staple food prices here to more than double their normal prices.
Researchers admit as well that the global financial crisis is not reflected in the report's final numbers. The report suggests that the sub-Saharan region is likely one of the most vulnerable to the economic downturn since it relies so heavily on foreign assistance and direct foreign investment.
Babu says that given the worsening conditions since 2007 means that the situation is actually much more grim than even the report indicates.
"The global situation is pulled back because of the recent food crisis, because of the recent financial crisis, where more and more people were pushed into poverty and the hunger situation. So we are facing a very hard battle here," Babu said.
Nine of ten countries, where the hunger situation has actually worsened since 1990, are found in sub-Saharan Africa. The DRC's index rating rose an astounding 56 percent over that period.