When growing population sizes can not be sustained with limited natural and economic resources, shortages, including those involving food, often quickly follow. Unfortunately, it is often the children who suffer the most in countries where hunger is an everyday fact of life. When reviewing the data herein, it is important to keep in mind that "food availability" does not necessarily denote caloric intake/per person/per day. This is because the latter may be lower than the former when adjusted for waste. For example, in the United States, where food availability is around 3,750 calories/per person/per day, the caloric intake is somewhat lower than this figure when wasted food is subtracted from the total available food. Yet, since the countries involved in this list are the ones that are least likely to waste food, the food availability and caloric intake per capita per day are generally much closer in line with one another in their respective, specific cases. To gain a better perspective, consider that long hours of manual agricultural labor, which is common in many of the countries listed below, often requires 3,500 or more calories per day just to sustain one's energy levels. Furthermore, children require high levels of energy intake to properly grow, and being malnourished makes people more susceptible to other health problems, as humans' immune systems must have adequate energy to function lest they should become suppressed and ultimately compromised.
10. Guatemala (2244 calories/per person/per day)
As per recent statistics, the food availability in Guatemala is 2,244 calories/per person/per day. Several factors are responsible for the low level of food availability in Guatemala, such as frequent floods and droughts, soil erosion caused by poor farming practices and deforestation, and a lack of sound economic policies of agricultural management. 49.8% of children below 5 years of age are undernourished in Guatemala. The most vulnerable groups include the native women and children living in the ‘dry corridor’ region of the country.
9. Sierra Leone (2162 calories/per person/per day)
Despite being rich in natural resources, the West African country of Sierra Leone has been devastated by the effects of a decade-long civil war. With a rank of 84 among 88 countries in the Global Hunger Index, Sierra Leone’s suffering population definitely deserves international attention. Around 40% of the country’s children are chronically undernourished, and it is estimated that every fourth child dies in Sierra Leone before even reaching the age of five. As per the vulnerability analysis reports of 2007, about one-fourth of the rural population has insufficient or borderline food consumption. In Sierra Leone, the food availability is about 2,162 calories/per person/per day.
8. Tanzania (2137 calories/per person/per day)
In Tanzania, around 42% of the children under the age of five are stunted in growth. The country has pockets of population that particularly suffer from acute malnutrition, such as the population at Zanzibar, where about 12% of its children lack proper nutrition. One-third of Tanzania’s children between the ages of 6 and 59 months are deficient in iron and Vitamin A, while more than 18 million Tanzanians consume a diet lacking adequate iodine, a mineral which Westerners typically sources from fortified table salt. The adolescent girls and young women of the country also are commonly seen to be severely malnourished. The food availability here is as low as 2,137 calories/per person/per day.
7. Madagascar (2117 calories/per person/per day)
Nearly a quarter of Madagascar’s population live in areas that are highly prone to natural disasters, including floods, droughts, and cyclones. This, along with large scale deforestation and poor land management practices, have been responsible as major contributors to the high prevalence of food insecurity in the region. As per the reports of the 2014 Crop and Food Security Assessment Mission, 35.8% of the rural population in eight surveyed areas of the country suffered from food insecurity. Nearly 2 million children in the country are stunted due to chronic malnutrition. Poor farming practices, a lack of economic support and education, and gender inequality are each partly responsible for the low agricultural output of the country. Only an average of 2,117 calories of food per person/per day is available to the people of Madagascar.
6. Mozambique (2112 calories/per person/per day)
The UNDP’s Human Development Report of 2009 estimated that about 40% of Mozambique’s population is undernourished, with residents having a life expectancy at birth of only 48 years. About 64% of the country’s population is food insecure. The significant prevalence of HIV/AIDS also further aggravates the poverty and malnutrition levels in the African nation. A high susceptibility to natural disasters, such as frequent cyclones, droughts, floods, and crop infections, coupled with Mozambique's high levels of poverty, a lack of modern farming practices, and financial support, all lead to low agricultural yields in the country. The food availability in Mozambique is thus only 2,112 calories/per person/per day.
5. Ethiopia (2097 calories/per person/per day)
Several degrading factors, including severe droughts, soil erosion, a lack of infrastructure, and unproductive farming methods, all contribute towards the low food availability in the African country of Ethiopia, where the food availability is only 2,097 calories/per person/per day. As per a World Food Program report from 2013, 28% of all child mortality cases in the country are caused by under-nutrition. Almost 81% of the reported cases of child malnutrition remain untreated, and 2 out of 5 children suffer from stunting. The economic consequences are serious as well. The high child mortality rate associated with stunting has reduced Ethiopia’s adult workforce by 8%, and about 16.5% of the country’s GDP is spent on curbing cases of malnutrition.
4. Kenya (2092 calories/per person/per day)
Recent statistics reveal that over 1 million Kenyan people suffer from food insecurity, with the food availability in the country being 2092 calories/per person/per day. 239,446 children in Kenya suffer from moderate acute malnutrition, while 2,600 children suffer from severe acute malnutrition. Internal conflicts displacing populations, such as those related to the El Niño weather phenomenon, infectious disease outbreaks, refugee crises, and high rates of HIV/AIDS in the country, render the population of Kenya highly susceptible to food crises and undernourishment.
3. Chad (2074 calories/per person/per day)
Lack of proper healthcare facilities and safe drinking water, as well as the frequent occurrence of drought conditions, has rendered the population of Chad vulnerable to food scarcity. Around 790,000 people in the country require emergency food assistance, and Chad has the highest rate of malnutrition in the entire region of Western Africa. A survey by SMART claims that Chad had a child malnutrition rate between 6.8% and 13.3% in 2014. The food availability in this country is but a meager 2,074 calories/per person/per day.
2. DR Congo (2056 calories/per person/per day)
Rebel activities involving armed conflicts, population displacement, and widespread corruption have left more than 70% of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s population in the grasps of poverty. Despite having plentiful resources and arable lands, a large section of the country’s population suffers from a severe food crisis nonetheless. In more than half of the territories of DR Congo, the acute malnutrition rate is over 10%. The chronic malnutrition rate of children aged 6-59 months is 43.4%, a frightening figure that has been classified as ‘critical’ by WHO standards. The food availability in the country is only about 2,056 calories/per person/per day.
1. Haiti (1976 calories/per person/per day)
Haiti’s food problem is the worst in the world, with statistics revealing a fearful food crisis situation throughout the country. Two out of three Haitians are believed to survive on a meager sum of $2 or less per day. Though agriculture forms a significant sector of the country’s economy, 80% of its staple food, rice, must be imported from other countries due to the extremely poor yields of the Haitian agricultural sector. Haiti’s agricultural system is almost completely dependent upon rain, as only 10% of its agricultural lands are irrigated. One in three children are stunted in Haiti, while 100,000 children suffer from acute malnutrition. One-third of Haitian women and children suffer from anemia. Haiti thus has the lowest food availability currently measured in the world, of only 1,976 calories/per person/per day.
What is the World's Most Malnourished Country?
Haiti’s food problem is the worst in the world, with statistics revealing a fearful food crisis situation throughout the country. Two out of three Haitians are believed to survive on a meager sum of $2 or less per day.
About the Author
Oishimaya is an Indian native, currently residing in Kolkata. She has earned her Ph.D. degree and is presently engaged in full-time freelance writing and editing. She is an avid reader and travel enthusiast and is sensitively aware of her surroundings, both locally and globally. She loves mingling with people of eclectic cultures and also participates in activities concerning wildlife conservation.
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