ROME (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Hunger levels in developing countries have fallen 29 percent since 2000, but efforts to curb hunger must be accelerated in order to meet an international target to eradicate it by 2030, according to an annual index published on Tuesday.
Hunger levels are "alarming" in seven countries, with Central African Republic (CAR), Chad and Zambia experiencing the worst levels, according to the 2016 Global Hunger Index.
Haiti, reeling from last week's Hurricane Matthew and still recovering from a massive 2010 earthquake, has the fourth highest hunger score.
Another 43 countries, including India, Nigeria and Indonesia, have "serious" hunger levels.
At the current rate of decline, more than 45 countries - including India, Pakistan, Haiti, Yemen, and Afghanistan - will have "moderate" to "alarming" hunger scores in the year 2030, the authors of the index said.
"Countries must accelerate the pace at which they are reducing hunger" if they are to meet the 2030 target, Shenggen Fan, director general of the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), said in a statement.
"Ending global hunger is certainly possible, but it's up to all of us ... (to) set the priorities right to ensure that governments, the private sector and civil society devote the time and resources necessary," Fan added.
World leaders agreed a 2030 deadline for ending global hunger last year as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) - an ambitious plan for tackling poverty, hunger and inequality.
IFPRI produces the annual index along with aid agencies Concern Worldwide and Welthungerhilfe.
Overall, some 795 million people go to bed hungry every night.
"We have the technology, knowledge and resources to achieve (zero hunger). What is missing is both the urgency and the political will to turn commitments into action," said Dominic MacSorley, CEO of Concern Worldwide.
The hunger index ranks countries based on undernourishment, child mortality, child wasting (low weight for height) and child stunting (low height for age). The 2016 report ranked 118 developing countries.
Nearly half the population in CAR and Zambia, and one in three people in Chad, are undernourished, it showed.
Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest hunger levels, followed closely by South Asia.
"Too many people are hungry today. There is a need for urgent, thoughtful and innovative action to ensure that no one ever goes hungry again," said David Nabarro, special adviser to the U.N. secretary-general on the SDGs.
(Reporting by Alex Whiting, Editing by Emma Batha. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, women's rights, trafficking, corruption and climate change. Visit http://news.trust.org)