the Beans

The true cost of a plate of food
around the world


How much would you expect to pay for the most basic plate of food?

The kind of thing you might whip up at home – nothing fancy, just enough to fill you up and meet a third of today’s calorie needs. A soup, maybe, or a simple stew – some beans or lentils, a handful of rice or bread or corn, a dash of tomato sauce?

In the rich Global North – say, in New York State, USA – such a meal would cost almost nothing to make: 0.6 percent of the average daily income, or US$1.20. In parts of the developing world, by contrast, food affordability can shrink to the point of absurdity: in South Sudan, a country born out of war and disintegrating into more war, the meal-to-income ratio is 300 times that of industrialized countries. It is, in other words, as if a New Yorker had to pay nearly US$350 for the privilege of cooking and eating that plate of food.
How do people in South Sudan afford it?
They don’t.
It’s why we – the World Food Programme and other humanitarian partners – are there. Every day, in South Sudan and in many other countries, we keep people alive. We shouldn’t be: hunger is a moral scandal and a human rights violation. That is still occurs defies both reason and decency. And still, 821 million people go hungry.
Lack of access to food, and the costliness of it, have many causes: climate extremes, natural disasters, weak markets or bad governance. But one overriding cause stands out: conflict. At WFP, we’ve long known that hunger and war are tragically symbiotic. Which makes it that much harder to eradicate the one without ending the other.
If you scroll through the list of countries below – there are 52 nations in this second edition of our index, 19 more than in the first – you will see that many have seen food affordability improve since 2017. But others, including South Sudan, have deteriorated. Almost invariably, these are nations where peace has been (further) eroded by violence, insecurity or political tension.
So pick a country from the menu or by rotating the globe, or click on in the chart, to find out how much a plate of food would set you back in purchasing power equivalence, and why that is so.
But as you pore through the numbers, please remember one thing: in this day and age, you shouldn’t be reading this sort of thing at all.

While someone living in New York might spend just 0.6% of their daily income on the ingredients to make a simple bean stew, someone in South Sudan would need to spend 201% of their daily income
  • Downward trend
  • Upward trend
  • NEW! 2018 update
  • United States, New York State
  • Peru

    Robust growth, partly driven by copper and other mineral exports, has allowed once guerrilla-ravaged Peru to halve poverty and child malnutrition since 2000. The farming sector too has expanded significantly — although mostly to the benefit of large-scale agriculture in coastal areas. Less fortunate Andean farmers have yet to enjoy their share of newfound wealth; nearly a quarter of the population is still nutritionally deprived. Overall, however, Peru’s record of building peace and food security sets the nation apart. In 2018’s Counting the Beans index, it is the country with the most affordable basic plate of food outside of the rich Global North.

  • Laos

    Landlocked, mountainous Laos has been growing fast (albeit from a low base) thanks to exports of hydropower and other natural resources. The country has slashed poverty rates and made strides in education and health. But the 2017 Global Hunger Index still finds serious hunger levels, and malnutrition remains a concern. Rice is the main crop; diets lack diversity. Even so, Laos is one of the first countries to embed Sustainable Development Goals into its national development plan, which aims to near-halve child malnutrition rates to 25 percent by 2025.

  • Jordan

    A stable middle-income nation in a volatile Middle East, Jordan hosts one of the world’s largest shares of refugees, many from conflict-torn Syria, Iraq and Yemen, alongside many Palestinians. The country is a net food importer, prone to recurrent droughts that may yet intensify with climate change. But compensatory measures are in place: the government has introduced social protection systems over the past decade – although it ended bread subsidies earlier this year. Externally, Jordan faces a slowdown in donor funding for refugees, among whom food insecurity is concentrated.

  • Colombia

    One of Latin America’s oldest democracies, Colombia continues to struggle with deep-seated inequality. Decades of civil conflict have only recently come to a tentative close. Nearly a third of Colombian children under five remain chronically malnourished; almost half of rural households live in poverty. Still, Colombia is, in regional terms, relatively stable and prosperous. In a reversal of historical patterns, the country has lately become a key entry point, refuge and corridor for migrants fleeing turmoil and hunger in neighbouring Venezuela.

  • Guatemala

    Guatemala put decades of civil war behind it in the mid-1990s to become one of Latin America’s strongest economic performers. Yet inequality is entrenched. More than half the population lives in poverty, and the country has some of the highest malnutrition rates in the Americas. Rural areas are particularly exposed. The World Bank expects continued growth and reforms to help reduce poverty, amid fears that a weakening resolve to fight corruption may undermine development in the long run.

  • Bolivia

    In just over a decade, fast-growing Bolivia has halved extreme poverty rates, while improving nutrition and reducing inequality. But it remains a land of seemingly jarring characteristics, both South America’s top natural gas exporter and its poorest country. Nearly a quarter of Bolivian children are stunted from malnutrition. Intense floods and droughts are both common. Observers fear that water stress from rising temperatures, retreating glaciers and growing demand may make Bolivia a fulcrum of regional tension.

  • Egypt

    The Arab region’s most populous country, Egypt has emerged from the Arab Spring and a succession of terror attacks with a re-centralized power system and good growth prospects. But some reforms, including cutting energy subsidies and floating the pound, have deepened poverty and food insecurity (particularly in rural Upper Egypt), and taken a toll on the middle class. Malnutrition rates, while falling, remain high among in young children. Short of fertile land to feed itself, Egypt is the world’s largest wheat importer, vulnerable to price fluctuations. Imports were expected to rise in 2018 as the domestic harvest fell sharply.

  • Iran

    The Middle East’s second-largest economy has expanded strongly in recent years, although poverty rates have also inched upwards. A fresh raft of international sanctions could deepen hunger and undermine growth, which the International Monetary Fund sees slowing in 2018. While access to health care is a constitutionally protected right, Iran lacks medicines and other equipment to treat chronic diseases. The country also hosts one of the world’s biggest refugee communities. Concentrated in urban areas and with few opportunities to earn a living, most refugees in Iran are reliant on humanitarian support.

  • Bangladesh

    One of the world’s most densely populated countries, Bangladesh has been posting annual GDP growth of six percent or more. This has made it easier to extend basic education, cut poverty, and reduce maternal and child mortality rates. But Bangladesh is prone to natural disasters, including flooding and cyclones. Some 22 million people remain below the poverty line; half that number suffer from acute hunger, and more than two-thirds of young children are stunted from malnutrition. Among the hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees from neighbouring Myanmar, many children are severely malnourished.

  • El Salvador

    Since the end of its 1980s civil war, El Salvador has consolidated democracy and made progress on many fronts, from better immunization and sanitation to reduced inequality and malnutrition rates. But the country is liable to sizeable natural and man-made shocks – floods, droughts and earthquakes, as well as serious gang violence and crime. It is also one of Latin America’s slowest growing economies. Poverty and insecurity continue to drive migration, with some 2.5 million Salvadorans now living in the United States.

  • Indonesia

    A lower middle-income country and one of the world’s largest, Indonesia has enjoyed rapid growth, halving its poverty rate and the number of undernourished citizens by the mid-2010s. Yet the benefits are spread unevenly. Poverty still grips some 28 million people, mostly in rural areas, and nearly four in 10 children under five are stunted from malnutrition. A diverse archipelago, Indonesia is prone to earthquakes and tsunamis – they last struck, jointly and to deadly effect, in late September 2018 – alongside bouts of civil unrest and militant violence. Its quest for self-sufficiency through import restrictions has hiked some food prices – including that of the main staple, rice – to levels markedly higher than elsewhere in the region.

  • Armenia

    The poorest of three South Caucasian nations, Armenia has recently undergone a peaceful political transition. Closed borders with Turkey and Azerbaijan since the early 1990s – shortly after independence from the Soviet Union – have long constrained economic development. Growth picked up strongly last year, and the outlook, driven by agribusiness, high tech and tourism, remains positive. But poverty continues to affect nearly one in three people, and the country is a net food importer.

  • India

    With the world’s largest competitive political system and rivalling China for population numbers, India has overtaken France as the world’s sixth largest economy. Rapid growth rates have lifted tens of millions of people out of misery. Access to sanitation is spreading fast. But per capita GDP is still low; high levels of poverty and hunger persist, and India is home to nearly a quarter of all undernourished people on the planet. Analysts say sustained and more equitable growth remains sorely needed to raise incomes and prospects for all of the country’s 1.3 billion people.

  • Kenya

    Kenya has rebounded from violent turmoil a decade ago with sturdy growth rates, reduced child mortality and near-universal primary school enrolment. One of sub-Saharan Africa’s more complex economies, it benefits from tourism revenue and a fast-expanding technology sector. But agriculture is still the country’s main employer, even as most land is arid or semi-arid. High levels of poverty and malnutrition persist; one in five children is stunted. Kenya also hosts large refugee populations, mostly from conflict-torn Somalia and South Sudan.

  • Philippines

    Asia’s second-fastest growing economy, the Philippines boasts an expanding middle class. Unemployment is at a historic low. But underemployment is high, and poverty rates remain above 20 percent. Vulnerability to shocks, both manmade and natural, is intense. Drug-related violence and decades of armed conflict in the south have resulted in widespread killing and displacement. Earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and typhoons are frequent, leaving the Philippines prone to humanitarian emergencies. In September 2018, Typhoon Mangkhut barrelled through the northern part of the island nation, killing several dozen people.

  • Libya

    Covered by desert and with little agricultural production, Libya imported most of its food even before entering long years of conflict and fragmentation in the early 2000s. In August 2018, the capital, Tripoli, saw more intense fighting. Libya’s nominal GDP per capita remains high, yet oil output, which powers the export sector, sputters at a third of 1970s levels. The Socialist welfare state that offset food costs for the poorest has collapsed. Soaring inflation is pushing up hunger and malnutrition rates, with over a quarter of children stunted. Meanwhile, more than 200,000 Libyans are internally displaced. The country also serves as a transit point for hundreds of thousands of sub-Saharan African migrants seeking to reach Europe.

  • State of Palestine

    Poverty in Palestine dropped after spiking during the 2014 Israel-Gaza conflict, but has since crept back up amid stagnation in the peace process. Today, it threatens to deepen with falling funding for Palestinian aid agency UNRWA, notably after the United States ended support. Growth is slowing and unemployment is rife, especially in the Gaza Strip, where 60 percent of youngsters are jobless. With food prices driven by markets in Israel, where incomes are vastly higher, nearly a quarter of the population cannot afford a nutritious meal. Women-headed households fare worst.

  • Honduras

    Central America’s second-poorest country, with high inequality and one of the world’s top homicide rates, Honduras has been further beset by recent instances of political unrest. The country is also exposed to extreme climatic shocks. A protracted drought across Central America’s ‘dry corridor’ has devastated staple maize and bean crops in western and southern regions, intensifying hunger and malnutrition among the most vulnerable. Overall, some 60 percent of the nine million Hondurans are poor, and a quarter of the children stunted.

  • Ethiopia

    Africa’s second-most populous country and one of the world’s fastest-growing economies, Ethiopia opened up its political system in 2018 and dramatically restored relations with arch-enemy Eritrea. Beyond greater regional stability, the move could usher in an economic windfall for both nations. Over the past two decades, Ethiopia has already sharply cut extreme poverty and child mortality, while increasing access to primary school, clean water and healthcare. But the starting point was low, and rapid population growth dilutes the impact of roaring GDP expansion. The country, which is grappling with ethnic tensions, also remains subject to climatic hazards – including its worst drought for 30 years in 2016.

  • Pakistan

    Having swung in and out of military rule for decades, Pakistan saw only its second civilian-to-civilian political transition in 2018. The new government must come to grips with a debt crisis, chronic instability and some of the region’s lowest human development indicators. Pakistan is a food-surplus nation, yet many households spend more than half their monthly income on meals. Over a quarter of children are stunted from malnutrition, and millions are not enrolled in primary school. Women and girls often struggle to access humanitarian services.

  • Cambodia

    With runaway GDP growth, post-genocide Cambodia has notched up significant progress in maternal health, early childhood development and primary school access. But disparities are wide, and the country is still one of Asia’s poorest. Some 4.5 million Cambodians hover on the edge of poverty. Many – chiefly small farmer households, the backbone of agriculture – lack access to health services, adequate diets and quality education. Monsoon flooding and droughts are common, amid high rates of deforestation.

  • Nicaragua

    Months of social and political unrest have ravaged Nicaragua’s tourism sector; sunk businesses; and compromised poverty-fighting efforts in the Western Hemisphere’s most destitute country after Haiti. With squatters occupying thousands of acres of farmland, the turmoil has taken a toll on agriculture, the mainstay of most Nicaraguans and the source of nearly a fifth of GDP. Observers expect the ongoing unrest to weaken growth for a third consecutive year.

  • Djibouti

    Home to an increasing number of foreign military bases, Djibouti has seen healthy GDP growth rates. Yet roughly one-fifth of its population of less than a million lives in extreme poverty. Hunger and a lack of basic services persist; a flare-up in border tensions with Eritrea last year brought a renewed sense of fragility. (Meanwhile, the current détente between Eritrea and Ethiopia threatens to diminish Djibouti’s strategic importance as a trading corridor.) Arid and drought-prone, Djibouti depends on food imports for survival and is highly susceptible to price hikes. Its most vulnerable residents include Somali and Yemeni refugees.

  • Nepal

    Nepal’s 2017 election ushered in hopes for political stability, following years of armed conflict and, more recently, 10 government changes in as many years. The turmoil put a break on growth and hindered recovery from an earthquake that killed thousands in 2015. As it is, the country remains one of the world’s least developed. More than a third of children suffer from chronic malnutrition, and a quarter of the population lives below the poverty line. Nepal is also prone to frequent natural disasters. In 2017, floods and landslides devastated the country’s main food-producing region.

  • Myanmar

    Although it boasts one of Southeast Asia’s fastest growing economies, Myanmar ranks among the world’s least developed countries. In the last year, violence has uprooted entire communities. Hundreds of thousands of ethnic Rohingya have fled western Rakhine state, seeking refuge in Bangladesh. Elsewhere, conflict in northern Kachin has displaced thousands; other areas are roiled by rivalry over natural resources. Myanmar’s citizens are short-lived by regional standards (66 years vs. 74 in Thailand) and nearly one in four lives in poverty. Child and infant mortality rates are among the region’s highest.

  • Cameroon

    Cameroon’s record of stability in a restive region has been compromised by a secessionist uprising in its English-speaking areas and ongoing Islamist attacks in the far north, and further tested in October’s presidential elections. The resource-rich nation has one of Central Africa’s largest and most diverse economies. But 40 percent of Cameroonians live in poverty, with food insecurity and malnutrition rife in the far north and east. As well as tens of thousands of people uprooted internally, Cameroon hosts several hundred thousand refugees from the Central African Republic and northeastern Nigeria.

  • Iraq

    The legacy of conflict and mass terrorism still hangs over Iraq. With major military operations concluded since late 2017, some four million people have returned to their homes. But two million are still internally displaced; humanitarian needs are vast. The oil-driven economy is expected to post only modest growth in 2018, and poverty remains widespread. The country’s second city, Basra, has been shaken by months of protests over a lack of jobs and basic services. A devastating drought has meanwhile shrivelled crops and reduced water levels to their lowest in decades.

  • Tanzania

    Ranked among Africa’s most peaceful countries, Tanzania has enjoyed solid economic growth over the past decade, riding on non-agricultural sectors such as tourism and telecommunications. Inflation is low and falling. The country has modestly cut poverty rates and improved access to education, drinking water and sanitation. But fast population growth means absolute poverty numbers are not changing. Agricultural production – dominated by smallholder farmers and accounting for a quarter of GDP – remains stagnant. Chronic malnutrition rates are higher than the African average, with more than a third of children stunted.

  • Tajikistan

    While still the poorest and most malnourished of all former Soviet republics, Tajikistan has achieved some stability since civil war in the 1990s. It has cut poverty and posted strong growth. But the country is riven by internal fault lines. A vital share of GDP consists of remittances from émigrés, driven by the search for opportunities missing at home. Containing only 7 percent of arable land, much of it degraded and drought-prone, Tajikistan is a net food importer. More than a quarter of its children under five are stunted.

  • Republic of Congo

    Resource-rich Congo appears to be stabilizing thanks to an uptick in oil prices and a 2017 ceasefire that ended clashes in the southern region of Pool. But while blessed with vast areas of rainforest and a manageably small population of just five million, Congo struggles to reap the benefits. Farmers tend to grow tubers and cassava with poor nutritional value. The country is nominally middle-income, yet nearly half of its people live on less than $1.25 a day. Some 75 percent of food is imported, and a quarter of under-fives are chronically malnourished.

  • Senegal

    Despite simmering conflict in the southern Casamance area and a growing threat from Islamist groups in the Sahel, Senegal has long stood for stability and democracy in a restive region. Government reforms and generally good harvests – despite delayed rains in 2018 – have powered strong economic growth. Poverty levels have shrunk slightly in recent years, and rates of chronic child malnutrition are today among the lowest in sub-Saharan Africa. Even so, nearly half of all Senegalese live in poverty and struggle to meet their basic food, education and housing needs. The majority are smallholder farmers and herders who depend on increasingly erratic rainfall and, in many areas, are threatened by encroaching desert.

  • Somalia

    Following prolonged civil war, a famine and the lingering threat of catastrophe, Somalia’s prospects have been buoyed by a peaceful political transition in 2017 and abundant rains in 2018. The World Bank sees the economy growing at a faster pace; lower food prices and better job opportunities have strengthened food security in urban areas. Yet overall, Somalia remains a nation on the brink, subject to colossal security, development and political challenges. The threat of continued murderous attacks looms over a fragile recovery. As of September 2018, some 1.5 million Somalis faced acute hunger, or worse.

  • Kyrgyzstan

    Still recovering from political and social upheaval in the post-Soviet years, Kyrgyzstan has sizable hydropower, tourism and farming potential. For all this promise, the mountainous nation of six million is highly dependent on food imports – especially of its main staple, wheat. A quarter of the Kyrgyz population lives below the poverty line, with rural areas hardest hit; the most vulnerable households spend as much as half of their income on food. Poorly diversified diets have caused stunting in some 13 percent of under-fives; more than four children in 10 suffer from anaemia.

  • Mali

    Vast, arid and landlocked, Mali has experienced multiple forms of volatility, including open conflict and destructive militancy, since independence in 1960. Economic growth has defied persistent insecurity in the north and central regions, as well as successive droughts. But the country remains one of the world’s least developed. Climate factors are making subsistence farming, which employs some 70 percent of the population, increasingly hard. In 2018, 3.4 million people found themselves food insecure. Mali also has some of the highest child mortality rates on the planet, and one in three children is stunted.

  • Uganda

    Fertile Uganda has halved poverty rates since the turn of the century, but total hunger numbers are flatlining. The country houses 1.5 million refugees, a third of whom are South Sudanese. Unrest in South Sudan, an important export market, has in turn contributed to a slowdown in Uganda’s economy. A quarter of the nation’s residents are undernourished, particularly in refugee camps and the impoverished north, which is still recovering from years of insurgency. Rain-fed agriculture dominates, leaving smallholder farmers (refugees included) vulnerable to climate shocks.

  • Sudan

    Conflict since independence has triggered mass displacement, wrecked infrastructure and restricted humanitarian access in Sudan, Africa’s largest country until it split up in 2011. South Sudan’s secession meant Sudan lost three-quarters of its oil production. By late 2018, the country was weathering a deepening crisis, with shortages of hard currency and food staples, and one of the world’s highest inflation rates. A cut in bread subsidies earlier in the year doubled prices and triggered large protests; ongoing fighting in southern Blue Nile and South Kordofan states has compounded the country’s woes. And while security in the western Darfur region has improved, it remains precarious. Some four in 10 of Sudan’s people are chronically malnourished.

  • Mauritania

    With a history of military coups and at risk from extremist groups, sparsely populated Mauritania is further threatened by recurrent droughts that shrink harvests and deplete grazing land, leaving half the workforce exposed. Less than one percent of the country’s land is arable; as much as 70 percent of its food is imported, and the poorest are highly vulnerable to rising food prices. Social policies and sustained economic growth in recent years have helped lower poverty and malnutrition rates. But up to 30 percent of Mauritanians struggle to eat enough during lean seasons between harvests, and more than one in 10 children under five is acutely malnourished.

  • Afghanistan

    Decades of war, extremism and natural disasters have taken a huge toll on Afghanistan, leaving its economy and infrastructure in ruins, and many of its citizens internally displaced or refugees. Despite some improvements in life expectancy, incomes and literacy over the last two decades, the country remains extremely poor and highly dependent on foreign aid. More than one million Afghans have been uprooted over the past two years alone; civilian casualties are at their highest since 2002. A severe 2018 drought across much of the country intensified displacement and hunger. Around four in 10 Afghan children are stunted from malnutrition – one of the world’s most alarming rates – and nearly one in 10 is severely malnourished.

  • Chad

    Plagued by decades of instability and climate-related crises, Chad has some of the world’s worst hunger levels and lowest development indicators. Regional violence has triggered a refugee influx, further straining the country’s limited resources. It is one of four nations affected by a nine-year-old humanitarian emergency in the Lake Chad region, where conflict and drought have left 10 million people in need of humanitarian assistance. Oil and agriculture – the latter employing 80 percent of the workforce – are mainstays of Chad’s economy. Both have suffered in recent years from falling (now reviving) world oil prices, punishing droughts and general insecurity.

  • Guinea

    A mineral-rich, fast-growing biodiversity hotspot, Guinea nonetheless remains one of the world’s poorest nations, prone both to severe flooding and outbreaks of political violence. Over the past year, the country has been buffeted by more volatility as local elections triggered protests and deadly riots. Poverty – already affecting more than half the population – has deepened since the devastating Ebola outbreak of 2014-16.

  • Zimbabwe

    Once the breadbasket of southern Africa, Zimbabwe has seen its economy plummet and poverty soar since the year 2000 due to a mix of intense droughts; rampant inflation; political instability and isolation; and a controversial land redistribution programme. Despite impressive literacy rates and lower mortality in recent years, Zimbabwe has fallen short of most Millennium Development Goals and remains socially polarized. Poor rainfall is forecast into 2019, threatening harvests in a country dominated by smallholder farming.

  • Syria

    Now into its eighth year, the civil war in Syria has killed hundreds of thousands of people and triggered the largest instance of mass displacement since WWII. Some 11 million Syrians — more than half the population — have been uprooted. Lost livelihoods and stagnant food production, coupled with high fuel prices, mean the numbers who need assistance are even greater. Millions of Syrians have found refuge elsewhere in the region, where the generosity of host governments and mass humanitarian aid have staved off catastrophe. Still, over the last year, average prices for basic foods in Syria have eased as government forces gain ground and formerly besieged or hard-to-reach areas become accessible again.

  • Madagascar

    Blessed with a unique ecosystem that includes five percent of the planet’s biodiversity, Madagascar has seen its development severely undermined by civil unrest and massive environmental degradation. Its economy has grown on the back of soaring world prices for its top crop, vanilla. But 92 percent of the population is poor. Many Malagasy are subsistence farmers practicing rainfed agriculture, vulnerable to frequent natural disasters and high inflation. Political upheaval over the decades, including in 2018, has further compromised growth and poverty-fighting efforts.

  • The Gambia

    The Gambia’s economy is flickering back to life, as the small West African country re-establishes international development partnerships eroded under the previous authoritarian government. The International Monetary Fund forecasts strong growth, largely driven by tourism, rainfed agriculture and remittances. But the humanitarian snapshot is cause for concern: poverty is widespread, and a quarter of Gambians are stunted from malnutrition.

  • Haiti

    The poorest country in the Western Hemisphere, Haiti has a history of political and climatic upheaval: the latter includes devastating floods, hurricanes, and an earthquake in 2010 that killed or injured half-a-million people and left another 1.5 million homeless. In mid-2018, protests over government plans to raise fuel prices unseated the country’s Prime Minister. The economy has nonetheless maintained modest growth as the farmer sector slowly recovers from hurricane damage. Even so, more than half of all Haitians struggle to avoid hunger, and one in five children is chronically malnourished. A falling currency has further depressed Haitians’ purchasing power.

  • Mozambique

    Since the end of its long civil war in the early 1990s, Mozambique has lowered hunger and malnutrition rates and expanded access to education. Rich in arable land, water and minerals, the country also has large offshore oil and gas reserves that analysts predict may transform its economy. But it remains one of the world’s poorest, most climate-challenged nations. Pockets of unrest endure, including a nascent Islamist insurgency in the north. Some four-fifths of Mozambicans cannot afford an adequate diet, and four in 10 children under five are stunted from malnutrition.

  • Central African Republic

    Despite its trove of natural resources including gold, timber, uranium and diamonds, the Central African Republic (CAR) ranks next to last in the 2018 Human Development Index. Instability over five decades of independence culminated in a coup in 2013 that sparked a wider civil conflict. Armed groups still control large parts of the country. Three-quarters of CAR’s people live in poverty; nearly a quarter are displaced; and half depend on humanitarian assistance. Infrastructure, minimal to begin with, has been destroyed and food production disrupted, driving up prices and exacerbating malnutrition. Four in 10 children under five are stunted.

  • Yemen

    Years of conflict have killed thousands, displaced millions, and pushed many more in the Arab region’s poorest country to the edge of subsistence. Today, with a third of its people close to famine, Yemen may be the world’s worst humanitarian crisis. Relief efforts have been gravely compromised by fighting around the Red Sea port of Hodeidah, the main entry point for food, fuel and aid. Severe malnourishment is threatening to add two million children to the list of Yemenis of all ages lost to malnutrition, ill health and disease. Meanwhile, soaring food and fuel prices are compounded by a tumbling currency. The persistency of conflict will further darken a catastrophic hunger landscape.

  • Malawi

    As many as four-fifths of Malawi’s citizens are smallholder farmers, entirely reliant on rainfed agriculture. The country, which narrowly avoided El Nino-related catastrophe in late 2016, is highly vulnerable to natural disasters and environmental degradation — and, more recently, to devastating, crop-eating armyworms. Additionally, Malawi’s fast-growing population posts some of the world’s most alarming HIV rates. While some indicators such as child mortality have improved, stunting from malnutrition still affects four children in 10.

  • Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC)

    The Democratic Republic of Congo is still reeling from decades of conflict that killed and displaced millions, leaving Africa’s second largest country with some of the continent’s worst development indicators. Despite enormous agricultural potential and mineral wealth, fewer than one in 10 Congolese has an acceptable minimum diet. More recently, the economy has grown faster on the back of higher commodity prices. Poverty rates have also dropped, but not enough to rescue DRC from the world’s bottom league. Research by WFP and the African Union shows that undernutrition costs the country an annual $1.7 billion in foregone productivity, health outlays, and workforce losses from early death.

  • Nigeria

    A complex crisis in Nigeria’s northeast has left millions in dire need of humanitarian assistance, while other pockets of violence, a yawning wealth gap and sluggish growth heap further pressure on Africa’s biggest economy and most populous nation. Conflict, drought and floods have uprooted more than two million people in the three hardest-hit northeastern states, tipping some areas into near-famine. Overall, one in three Nigerian children under five is stunted, and one in five is acutely malnourished. Yet such is the disparity between the ravaged northeast and the dynamic southern and coastal areas, that Nigeria features in this index with a regional, rather than national, price for its plate of food.

  • South Sudan

    Seemingly endless conflict has nearly obliterated what is both the world’s newest state and its poorest. Officially, some 60 percent of South Sudan’s population – seven million people – struggles to survive and might die without humanitarian assistance. (But given that many South Sudanese have taken refuge abroad, the percentage is likely higher.) Violence in South Sudan long pre-dates independence; today, conflict-related famine remains an ever-present threat, and in fact occurred in parts of the country in early 2017. It is unclear if a peace deal signed in September 2018 will offer much relief. In our second edition of the Counting the Beans Index, South Sudan remains far and away the nation with the most unaffordable plate of food. A meal now costs twice the national daily income – a further deterioration of last year’s abysmal numbers.


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