Ethiopia, Botswana and the Dominican Republic showed the biggest worldwide gains in food security in the last year, according to a new report.
The Global Food Security Index report says food security is a complex issue, meaning production of a sufficient amount of food in any given country is not necessarily enough to end hunger in that country.
The report says internal and external factors can affect the availability, affordability, quality and safety of food.
One of its main findings is that developing countries made the biggest strides towards food security in the last year, with Ethiopia, Botswana and the Dominican Republic each climbing at least eight steps.
Rising incomes and larger average food supplies improved food security in many developing countries and were particularly important drivers in the top three countries.
The Sub-Saharan region showed the only improvement on the index, climbing one point from an average score last year of 53.5 to 53.6 – no other country showed a positive change.
Last year’s drought in key food-growing regions reduced food security for a while as grain prices rose, but that trend eased later in the year.
Not surprisingly, wealthy nations once again occupy the top spots on this year’s index.
The US retains its number one ranking, while Norway has overtaken Denmark to occupy second place. France remains third, followed by several north European countries.
The Global Food Security Index report says more than 870 million people worldwide do not have food security.
Leaders at the 1996 World Food Summit in Rome set a goal of reducing this number to 400 million by 2015, but the report suggests it is clear that target will not be met.
More encouragingly, it says there is a strong global commitment to provide adequate, affordable and nutritious food.
However, it says there is more work to do to honor a 2009 commitment made by wealthy countries to commit $22 billion in aid, at the time a significant advance in global food security spending.
By 2012, the report says, those countries had collectively disbursed less than half the funds they had pledged for the year.
The report identifies that food prices play a key role in food security by influencing affordability.
It says high prices have the greatest impact on developing countries, where the poor typically spend a larger proportion of their income on food and where price spikes can significantly reduce consumption.
“While food producers may benefit from price increases, and thus higher revenue, this is typically a medium- to long-run phenomenon and is not considered for the purpose of our index,” the report says.