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CAR, Chad and Zambia top Global Hunger Index

Children race into the drop zone to gather any food or seeds that were spilled during the air drop in Leer, South Sudan.
Nichole Sobecki | AFP | Getty Images

A staggering 52 developing countries are suffering from "serious" or "alarming" levels of hunger, according to the newly-released Global Hunger Index (GHI).

The Central African Republic suffers the greatest level of hunger — as defined by a number of metrics including child mortality — followed by Chad and Zambia.

"Armed conflict and hunger are strongly associated. The countries with the highest GHI scores tend to be those engaged in or recently emerged from war," the report accompanying the index said.

"It is perhaps not surprising that the first two of these three countries have been plagued with high hunger levels, given the violent conflict and instability their people face."

East Timor, Sierra Leone, Haiti, Madagascar, Afghanistan, Niger and Yemen made up the remainder of the top 10 countries most affected by hunger in 2015, all falling in the "serious" to "alarming" categories.

The Global Hunger Index, compiled by the International Food Policy Research Institute, an Washington-DC based agricultural research center, with German development and humanitarian aid organization Welthungerhilfe and Irish non-profit Concern Worldwide, scores developing countries based on four metrics.

These are the proportion of undernourished people as a percentage of the population, the proportion of children under the age of five who suffer from wasting, the proportion of children under the age of five who suffer from stunting and the mortality rate of children under the age of five.

Each country receives a score between 0 and 100 — where 0 is the best and 100 the worst. A score below 9.9 denotes "low" hunger levels, 10.0-19.9 is "moderate", 20.0-34.9 is "serious", 35.0-49.9 is "alarming" and 50 and above is "extremely alarming."

This year, no country hit the "extremely alarming level." However, it's important to note that this year's report does not include GHI scores for several countries that had very high (alarming or extremely alarming) GHI scores in the 2014 index, including Burundi, Comoros, Eritrea, South Sudan, and Sudan, as current data on undernourishment were not available.

A hungry world

The index covers 104 developing nations. Levels of hunger across the groap more broadly have dropped by more than a quarter since 2000, according to the report, with Ukraine, Brazil, Azerbaijan, Croatia, Latvia, Peru, Mongolia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Venezuela and the Kyrgyz Republic making the most progress over the past 15 years.

But 795 million people are still chronically undernourished, more than one in four children are affected by malnutrition-related stunting, and 9 percent of children are affected by wasting, according to the report.

In terms of geographies, South Asia and Africa south of the Sahara continue to experience the highest levels of hunger, with 2015 GHI scores, at 32.2 and 29.4 respectively, putting them both in the "serious" category.

In contrast, the GHI scores for East and Southeast Asia, North Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean and Eastern Europe range between 8.0 and 13.2.