Developing strategies to end hunger
 

The Hidden SDG

Egypt_making_bread  for June 26 blog

 Photo courtesy of Bradipus/Creative Commons

By Steve Damiano

The fight to end hunger depends on the fight to find people living with hunger. 

At the Financing for Development Conference in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, in July, the international community will pledge money to achieve the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which succeed the Millennium Development Goals. Countries will likely commit to ending hunger and malnutrition by 2030 as part of the second SDG. But to end hunger and malnutrition, the world will first have to accomplish a more hidden SDG. Goal 17 (under its target 18) calls on donors by 2020 to increase the capacity of the least developed countries and small island states to collect timely and reliable data on all socioeconomic groups. 

The FAO estimates that the world had 795 million food insecure individuals in 2014. Yet among developing countries, many governments lack the income data needed to provide targeted food assistance, largely because the countries have large informal sectors and weak tax systems. Instead, these governments rely on national household expenditure and consumption surveys, which allow them to measure whether households are poor and food insecure based on how much money they spend and the quality and quantity of food they consume.

Just as Bread for the World Institute recently showed that most of the data needed to advance gender equality is missing, Smith et al discovered that a significant amount of data on household food security is absent. They found that only half of all national household expenditure and consumption surveys have the data needed to determine if households receive enough calories or are undernourished. Even worse, the problem goes beyond not collecting the specific information needed to not collecting information at all:  the percentage of developing countries that had conducted recent household surveys ranged from 39 percent of countries in the Middle East and North Africa to 85 percent in sub-Saharan Africa. 

We can see why good data is needed by looking at food subsidies in Egypt and Iran. Both countries have a history of providing bread subsidies to reduce hunger. Both countries also carry out household surveys to measure the economic well-being of their populations. Yet only Egypt asks questions related to household food security as Iran focuses more on household expenditures.

In 2014 and 2010, Egypt and Iran respectively began reforming their food subsidy programs to try to better target poor families. Egypt started limiting the number of subsidized bread loaves individuals could buy to reduce price speculation and began giving people smart cards rather than a monthly food basket so they could buy more nutritious foods. Iran sought to replace its bread subsidies with cash transfers to poor households, but the government lacked the data to identify poor households. In the end, it gave the cash transfer to the entire population. But this was too expensive to sustain. In 2014, the Iranian government resorted to handing out food directly to people in need, sparking national outrage as Iranians waited for hours in lines outside food distribution centers. While Iran has used its oil wealth to achieve lower hunger rates than Egypt, the Egyptian government has collected the data needed to ensure that its limited resources go as far as possible in reducing hunger.

Steve Damiano is a Crook Fellow with Bread for the World Institute this summer. He recently earned master's degrees from the University of Texas at Austin in both Global Policy Studies and Middle Eastern Studies. Aid effectiveness is one of Steve's areas of interest.

G7 Leaders: Think Ahead, Act Now, to End Hunger by 2030

This weekend, June 7-8, 2015, German Chancellor Angela Merkel hosted the 41st G7 (Group of 7) summit in Schloss Elmau, Munich. The G7 members are nations with major industrialized economies—Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the United States, Italy, Canada, and Japan.

The theme of the summit—Think Ahead. Act Together.—encompassed food security and nutrition, the post-2015 development agenda, women’s economic empowerment, and three key global events in 2015, among other topics. The rapidly-approaching meetings are the Third Financing for Development conference in Addis Ababa in July; the U.N. General Assembly in September, where the nations of the world are expected to adopt a post-2015 development agenda and goals; and a critical summit on responding to climate change, to be held in Paris in December.

2015 G7 picPhoto credit: Newswire

Bread for the World welcomes the G7’s continued focus on food security and nutrition, and calls for sustained political will to both financial and non-financial commitments to end global hunger by 2030. According to the newly released G7 Communique, world leaders have committed “to lift 500 million people in developing countries out of hunger and malnutrition by 2030.” The Communique states that the G7 will strengthen “efforts to support dynamic rural transformations, promote responsible investment and sustainable agriculture and foster multisectoral approaches to nutrition… [and] safeguard food security and nutrition in conflicts and crisis.”

2015 offers tremendous opportunities for global development. It is the culmination of a 15-year effort to reach the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Negotiations to set a post-2015 development agenda are at an advanced stage. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) recently released its flagship report on world hunger, which finds that global hunger is continuing to decline. An estimated 795 million people are chronically hungry in the period 2014-16. This is 216 million fewer than in the baseline period for the MDGs, 1990-1992. For the developing world as a whole, both the prevalence of undernutrition and the proportion of underweight children younger than 5—targets included in the “hunger goal,” MDG 1– have declined. The FAO report and other indications of recent progress on hunger affirm once again that it is feasible to end hunger by 2030.

But reaching the goal will require sustained bold commitment and action by the G7 governments as well as a multitude of other actors. The 2007-2008 global food price crisis was a wake-up call for world leaders on the significant damage caused by neglecting the agriculture sector. At the 2009 G8 summit in L’Aquila, Italy, President Obama and other G8 leaders pledged $22 billion in Official Development Assistance for the L'Aquila Food Security Initiative. Annual accountability reports track disbursements in fulfillment of these pledges; the latest data on donor pledges and disbursements show that nearly all G7 donor financial commitments have now been fulfilled. The U.S. government’s global food security initiative, Feed the Future, is its contribution to the l’Aquila initiative.

The G7 also released its annual progress report just before the summit. The 2015 Elmau Progress Report— Biodiversity: A Vital Foundation for Sustainable Development, underscores the urgency of confronting climate change in order to end hunger by 2030 and achieve other development goals. Bold steps to address the current and potential damage from climate change must be taken “today, not tomorrow.” The report gives updates on what G7 members have done to address some of the major challenges. Among its key messages on biodiversity:

  • The G7 acknowledges the importance of biodiversity for human well-being, sustainable development, and poverty alleviation.
  • The G7 has acted on its commitment through policies, finance, and other means to protect species and their habitats while also addressing the multiple causes of biodiversity loss.
  • The G7 is aware that significant challenges still need to be tackled in order to improve the status of biodiversity and ecosystems worldwide.

Faustine Wabwire

Vizathon Tackles Hidden Hunger from Both Coasts

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By Derek Schwabe

This past Saturday, Bread for the World Institute held our first-ever bi-coastal (and second annual) vizathon to expose hidden hunger. The event, held at Bread’s offices in Washington, DC, and the offices of Macys.com in downtown San Francisco, brought together a diverse group of volunteer data heroes (statisticians, web developers, coders, designers, and data geeks) who gave their time, skills, and creative energy to help us visualize a widespread and growing kind of hunger: hidden hunger. We teamed up with the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), who shared a rich new dataset that helped our volunteers tackle the issue from all sides. We were grateful to have two fantastic data facilitators who led the charge -- Jon Schwabish of HelpMeViz on the East Coast and Leigh Fonseca of LivingData on the West Coast. Here’s a storify-style recap of our exciting day of data storytelling:  

Two Full Rooms Took on Two Forms of Hidden Hunger

Challenge 1, De-Mystifying Micronutrient Deficiency: Micronutrient deficiency harms one in two preschool-aged children worldwide, yet it’s impossible to detect by looking at a child. How can we make the damage caused by micronutrient deficiency visible?  

Challenge 2, The Coming Obesity Pandemic: Obesity is hunger for the right kinds of food. In the developing world, we’ve seen steady progress against traditional forms of hunger, but obesity is rising rapidly. With it comes a proliferation of deadly non-communicable diseases. All too often, these don’t have treatments that are 100 percent effective, even in developed countries (e.g., heart disease, stroke). Poorer countries certainly do not have the resources to treat large numbers of patients with these conditions. Help us tell this urgent story.

Getting Started: A Deluge of Data

IFPRI introduced a dataset with household-level information relevant to both data challenges. Sara Signorelli of HarvestChoice, a project led by IFPRI, oriented the Washington, DC and San Francisco teams to available indicators such as those on micronutrient deficiency, dietary diversity, obesity, and body mass. The dataset was specific to Africa South of the Sahara. Signorelli pointed participants to HarvestChoice’s Mappr tool—a nutrition and agriculture data mapping app that lets users isolate specific indicators, years, locations, or groups. HarvestChoice also supplied even more granular datasets on Ethiopia and Malawi. The “vizathoners” had no shortage of data to sift through, but the real challenge was pulling out a story.

The Coasts Connect

By the time the San Francisco team was ready to jump into the data, the Washington, DC, group had already been working with it long enough to begin to notice trends, gaps, and roadblocks. We took advantage of the three-hour time-zone difference to give the two teams a chance to connect and learn from each other. Using Google HangOut, participants in Washington, DC, communicated their most salient findings -- and in some cases, vented their frustrations -- to San Francisco. Twitter was also a cross-coastal communication channel of choice.  

Visualizing Answers...and more Questions

Once both teams had a few hours to explore the data, visualizations started to surface, highlighting fascinating trends and raising many new questions. Here’s a smattering of some of them:

What’s Next?

The discoveries made and questions raised by vizathon volunteers will not be left alone. In the coming weeks, the Institute, IFPRI, and a smaller group of volunteers will process the day’s findings and start digging deeper. We’re excited to create opportunities for the teams to continue their work, which will (we hope) lead to visualization tools that will make hidden hunger impossible to miss. Stay tuned.  

Further Reading

Check out HelpMeViz.com to see more work by vizathon participants, dig into visualizations in greater detail, or even play around with the data yourself. And be sure to read this post by my colleague, Robin Stephenson, in which she recaps the vizathon from her own first-time perspective and introduces us to some of the incredible participants!

Derek Schwabe

Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation Announces New Nutrition Strategy

Melinda Gates announced a new foundation pledge of $776 million over a six-year period to fight malnutrition. Gates made the announcement June 3 at the European Development Days forum on development and international cooperation. 

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Photo Credit: 1000 Days "Investing in Nutrition: A Golden Opportunity"

Gates said that efforts to end malnutrition are underfunded, adding, “I know of no other problem in the world that does so much damage yet receives so little attention.”

Malnutrition is the underlying cause of almost half of all preventable deaths of children younger than 5. Many millions more who survive—one in four of the world’s children—are stunted, meaning that early childhood malnutrition has permanently damaged their physical and cognitive development.

The 2015-2020 Gates Nutrition Strategy centers around five initiatives: country impact; new solutions; food systems; data, analytics, and evidence; and advocacy, policy, and alignment. The efforts will include reaching more women, young children, adolescent girls, and others at risk with proven solutions such as breastfeeding and food fortification, improving food systems so that people have better access to nutritious and affordable food, and support a data revolution in nutrition to strengthen the evidence for nutrition actions and track progress.

The Gates Foundation will focus its efforts on five countries that have both high rates of child malnutrition and significant opportunities to make improvements: India, Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Nigeria, and Burkina Faso. 

Gates called on European donors to continue to support maternal/child nutrition efforts, particularly at the upcoming Financing for Development conference, to be held in Addis Ababa in July, and at the U.N. General Assembly in September, where global leaders will be finalizing targets and financial commitments for the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The SDGs will set the global development agenda through 2030, including targets for reducing malnutrition and child mortality. The SDGs succeed the Millennium Development Goals (September 2000-December 2015).

Scott Bleggi
 

President's Global Development Council's Report for a Post-2015 Era

This year, 2015, is a significant year in the history as well as the future of global development. For example, September this year, 2015, will mark the sunset of the Millennium Development Goals, and usher in the more ambitious post-2015 development agenda. The MDGswhich were adopted in the year 2000—have provided a unified agenda for addressing the world’s most pressing development challenges, such as hunger and extreme poverty. As articulated in the Millennium Declaration, the MDGs promised to uphold the principles of human dignity, equality and equity, as well as work toward a world free from hunger and extreme poverty.

Over the last decade, the world has seen tremendous progress, and several MDG targets have been met. Most notably, the world has reduced extreme poverty by half. According to a report by the United Nations, in 1990, almost half of the population in developing regions lived on less than $1.25 a day. This rate dropped to 22 percent by 2010, reducing the number of people living in extreme poverty by 700 million. Although the hunger target has not been achieved, it is within reach. Recent evidence shows that the proportion of people who suffer from chronic hunger continues to decline, but immediate additional efforts are needed to reach the MDG hunger target. This is where the post-2015 agenda comes in.

 

Over the last two years, Member States of the United Nations have been working to define Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), as part of the post-2015 universal development agenda. The SDGs will carry on with the “unfinished agenda” of the MDGs, and will apply to all countries, including the United States. This agenda will be adopted by Member States at the Sustainable Development Summit in September 2015.

This is a tremendous opportunity for world leaders as well as citizens of every country, to ensure that the next 15 years will be transformative, and that attention will focus on ending poverty  everywhere. Yet, we also know that the world has dramatically changed since the year 2000, when the MDGs  were adopted. For example, in 2000, the world’s poor people lived in low-income but mostly stable countries. Today, it is estimated that middle-income countries and fragile states are home to over 70 percent of the world’s poor people. This means that in order to achieve the post-2015 "transformative" agenda by 2030, the means of implementation cannot be "business as usual."National governments, the international community and citizens around the world must commit to hold each other accountable toward delivering for the world's poorest populations. The United States and its partners must ensure that commitments made through the SDGs focus on delivering outcomes, and that they “leave no one behind,” particularly those living in Least Developed Countries (LCDs), and fragile states.

As the 2015 MDG deadline nears, and as the world prepares to adopt the SDGs this September, experts in global development are thinking ahead. Last week, the President’s Global Development Council (GDC) released its second annual report, highlighting 5 recommendations for the U.S. government’s engagement in a rapidly changing post-2015 development landscape:

  • Further galvanizing the private sector;
  • Promoting sustainable growth while building resilience to climate change;
  • Driving innovation for development results;
  • Increasing collaborative resource mobilization for development; and
  • Further catalyzing economic opportunities for women and youth, especially in megacities.

The 2015 full report of the GDC can be found here.

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