Hunger in Côte d'IvoireFollowing the conclusion of a civil war in 2011, the West African nation of Côte d’Ivoire, also known as the Ivory Coast, has experienced economic growth rates averaging around 8% per year. Despite its growth, the nation still struggles with endemic poverty and hunger. It ranks 165 out of 188 countries in the United Nations Human Development Index. Under President Alassane Ouattara, Côte d’Ivoire has focused on the economy and the middle class, launching an ambitious National Development Plan in order to transform Côte d’Ivoire into a middle-income economy by 2020. Ouattara’s government has also made some strides to combat severe hunger in Côte d’Ivoire, particularly regarding child care. Côte d’Ivoire’s fast economic growth is admirable. However, it is also crucial to understand the problems afflicting the world’s most vulnerable people, such as hunger, and not just economic growth.

7 Facts About Hunger in Côte d’Ivoire

  1. Côte d’Ivoire has been successful in combating one of the worst consequences of widespread hunger: stunted growth in childhood. Between 2012 and 2016 rates of stunting and wasting for children under the age of five dropped to 21.6% and 6.1%, respectively. The average rates for developing countries are 25% and 8.9%.
  2. Another area of progress in combating hunger in Côte d’Ivoire is in promoting the exclusive use of breastfeeding for babies. Between 2012 and 2016 rates of exclusive breastfeeding rose from 12% to 23.5%
  3. The World Food Programme (WFP) has worked with the Ivoirian government to combat hunger in Côte d’Ivoire at the childhood level. The WFP distributes school and take-home meals at primary schools across Côte d’Ivoire. Before the COVID-19 crisis, the organization was set to expand its coverage to 125,000 schoolchildren in insecure zones. 
  4. Côte d’Ivoire has also experienced success in fighting severe food insecurity. This issue had previously disappeared from the country before returning in 2019. The overall food insecurity rate has declined from 12.8% in 2015 to 10.8% in 2018.
  5. Agriculture in Côte d’Ivoire employs over half of the labor force and takes up 84% of the arable land. Farmers in Côte d’Ivoire largely grow cash crops, such as cocoa. (Côte d’Ivoire is the largest producer of cocoa in the world.) A successful harvest is vital for Ivoirians to be able to feed their families. To that end, the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has distributed agricultural kits throughout the country in an effort to improve productivity and competitiveness.
  6. Hunger in Côte d’Ivoire is significantly impacted by the fact that 46% of people in Côte d’Ivoire live below the poverty line ($1.22 per day). Poverty is concentrated in the North and the West, which are more rural and insecure. Food insecurity is a bigger issue in these areas. It is more difficult to implement food distribution and agricultural aid programs there.
  7. The WFP gave Côte d’Ivoire a Global Hunger Index of 25.9 which indicates a “serious” problem. Such a ranking stems from the triple threat of malnutrition, undernutrition and overnutrition. Overnutrition is a newer problem that disproportionately affects the adult women population. However, malnutrition and undernutrition in Côte d’Ivoire have deep roots in food insecurity. The issues stem from a high dependency on the quality of the local harvest and a widespread lack of support among small farmers for food crop production.

While poverty and hunger in Côte d’Ivoire remain endemic, the government and a variety of international organizations have made significant progress in their struggle. This is particularly true at the childhood level. Developing market competitiveness and advancing economic growth is necessary. However, it is important to assist those who need the most help, like those who experience severe hunger and malnutrition.

Franklin Nossiter
Photo: Flickr