Developing strategies to end hunger

Hunger and the MDGs

The launch of the 2013 Hunger Report, Within Reach-Global Development Goals, is coming up on November 19. Last week I previewed the main messages in the report and told you how to reserve a seat for the launch at the National Press Club in Washington, DC. In this post, I want to explain how hunger is interconnected with all of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and why progress against hunger accelerates progress on the other MDGs.

MDG 1 – End Poverty and Hunger
Human capital development is crucial to giving poor children a chance to escape poverty as adults. Hunger erodes human capital development through irreversible effects on cognitive and physical development.

Adults who experienced hunger throughout their lives, especially those who were stunted by hunger as children, earn almost 20 percent less on average than those who didn’t experience hunger.

MDG 2 – Achieve Universal Primary Schooling
Evidence shows that when food is scarce or unaffordable, parents pull children out of school and send them to work in order to help the household afford food. 

Even when children are not pulled from school, hunger undermines the value of their education. Hungry children have a much harder time concentrating in school. Iodine deficiency, caused by a lack of this specific nutrient in one’s diet, affects one-third of schoolchildren in developing countries and is associated with a loss of 10–15 IQ points. 

MDG 3 – Promote Gender Equality and Empower Women
Women and girls are half the world’s population but make up 60 percent of people who are hungry.

Promoting gender equality benefits everyone.  If women farmers had the same access to productive resources as men, they could increase yields on their farms by 20 to 30 percent, raising the total agricultural output in developing countries by 2.5 to 4 percent, and in turn reducing the number of hungry people in the world by 12 to 17 percent.

MDG 4 – Reduce Child Mortality
Hunger is linked to a third of all deaths among children under 5. 

In one study of child deaths in 20 countries, malnutrition was an underlying cause of 51 percent of diarrhea deaths, 57 percent of malaria deaths, 52 percent of pneumonia deaths, and 45 percent of measles deaths.  

MDG 5 – Improve Maternal Health
Hunger increases the risk of women dying in childbirth

Malnourished women give birth to malnourished children who are also at greater risk of dying during childbirth.  Malnutrition also increases the risk that a pregnant woman who is HIV-positive will pass the virus on to her baby.

MDG 6 – Combat HIV/AIDS, Malaria, and Other Diseases
The World Health Organization has called poor nutrition the single most important threat to the world’s health.  Estimates suggest that 11 percent of the total global disease burden is related to malnutrition.     

MDG 7 – Ensure Environmental Sustainability
Urban hunger is no small matter, but the vast majority of hungry people still live in rural areas and work predominantly as farmers, fishers, and pastoralists. Sustainable solutions to hunger are the only solutions that matter to people who rely on the natural environment to earn a living.

Goal 7 is also about improving access to clean drinking water and sanitation. Hunger aggravates the barriers to access—for example, as mentioned above, many child deaths from diarrhea, mostly caused by contaminated drinking water, are linked to malnutrition.

MDG 8 – Develop a Global Partnership for Development
It is possible to end global hunger -- but not without partnerships between wealthier nations and those which remain quite poor. In fact, partnership is the key piece of the puzzle to end hunger.

Social protections are vitally important: some of the best examples of significant progress against hunger and malnutrition have come from countries that have invested in effective social protection policies to reach vulnerable families. People living in rich countries may take for granted social protections, such as the WIC program for mothers, infants, and young children in the United States; subsidized school meals; various forms of support for people with physical and mental disabilities; or programs for seniors such as Social Security and Medicare.

Social protection programs may exist in some skeletal form or another in poor countries, but rarely ever do they have the kind of reach to protect all those in need. That’s where partnerships with wealthier countries can make a huge difference in expanding coverage. And they have—for example, Ethiopia’s Productive Safety Net Program (PSNP), a partnership between the Ethiopian government and ten donors, which allowed millions of people who might have been devastated by recent steep hikes in food prices to weather these shocks. 

Within Reach – Global Development Goals, the 2013 edition of the Hunger Report, will be available starting November 19. Pick up a free copy at the launch if you’re in DC on November 19, or order online here. RSVP to Cheryle Adams at Bread for the World Institute to guarantee a seat at the launch and for additional details about the event.


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