LIBREVILLE — Hunger in Gabon is decreasing steadily. The Global Hunger Index (GHI) is a measure of a particular country’s hunger, calculated each year by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). In calculating the GHI, four components of hunger are observed:
- Undernourishment, or the percentage of the country’s population that has an insufficient caloric intake
- Child wasting, or the percentage of children severely underweight for their height
- Child stunting, or the percentage of children suffering from chronic nutrition to the point that it has stunted their growth
- Child mortality
An increase in a country’s GHI score means that hunger has worsened, and a decrease means that fewer people are hungry in said country. Gabon’s current GHI score is 12, indicating a moderate amount of hunger in Gabon.
Since 1992, Gabon’s GHI score has steadily decreased, reflecting greater interest in nutrition from the Gabonese government, as well as improved agricultural conditions and increased foreign aid to the Central African state. Just a decade ago, more than 4 percent of Gabonese were undernourished, and the under-five mortality rate for Gabonese children was nearly 7 percent. Further, 21.6 percent of Gabonese children were stunted due to severe malnutrition. Looking at the IFPRI 2016 data, all of those numbers have dropped.
In some areas, the numbers of hunger in Gabon has only decreased slightly: the 2016 prevalence of child wasting in Gabon was 3.4 percent, compared to 3.9 percent in 2008. In other places, rather drastically: more than a 4 percent decrease in the number of stunted Gabonese children since 2008.
The fact that virtually all of these numbers are decreasing is a reason for optimism. Every eight years since before 1992, Gabon has seen about a 3 percent decrease to its GHI score. There is still lots of hunger in Gabon, but things are trending in the right direction.
The Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index Africa (HANCI) studies and ranks 45 African states based on their political commitment towards reducing hunger. Right now, HANCI ranks Gabon at 38. This obviously reveals the need to further concentrate on reducing hunger in Gabon. However, the HANCI data also reveals some things that the Gabonese government is doing right: Gabonese people’s constitutional right to social security is strong, with Gabon ranking in first place in this category.
Furthermore, more than 93 percent of Gabonese people have access to improved water sources, and Gabon has devised a national nutrition policy in which the nourishment of children is a specific focus. HANCI has suggested that Gabon increase its public spending on nutrition — just 1 percent in 2013 — and provide greater constitutional protections to the rights of women, who own far less agricultural land than men and have a greater risk of malnutrition, as do their children.
Putting the political suggestions of HANCI aside, almost all of the news about hunger in Gabon is good news. Gabon in 2015 met the Millennium Development Goals regarding hunger set by the U.N. This initiative focused on bolstering the development of poor countries, eradicating hunger and reducing poverty. Gabon also met the goals of the World Food Summit. The result: Gabon has halved both the proportion of undernourished Gabonese and the absolute number of hungry people within its borders.
Through regional cooperation in reducing hunger, attention to its policies regarding nutrition and by following the advice and accepting the help of the U.N., Gabon has reduced hunger and improved the lives of the Gabonese people. If the last two decades are any indication, then the next time we see data for hunger in Gabon, things will only have improved more.
– David McLellan