Developing strategies to end hunger
 

257 posts categorized "Africa"

Hunger in Fragile States: Where to Start?

Fragile states photo

Photo credit: NASA

By Michele Learner

Ending global hunger requires enabling and equipping all people – all 7 billion and counting -- to feed themselves and their families, no matter where they live. As the world makes steady progress against hunger, one inconvenient truth is that the people and communities still living with hunger become harder and harder to reach. This is, after all, why many have not benefited from the progress made so far.

Many of the “last miles” in building food security are in the world’s 50 identified fragile and conflict-affected states. It’s not hard to understand why conflict-affected countries have high rates of hunger. The main aim of conflict – destruction – is directly at odds with what’s needed for sustainable development. Peace is a precondition for lasting progress on hunger. In its absence, local, national, and international humanitarian relief efforts are saving countless lives, but they can at best hold the line on hunger. They can’t enable nations, communities, or individuals to move forward.

What makes a country "fragile"? In its June 2015 report, States of Fragility, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), one of the main sources of information and analysis on fragile states, argues that fragility can apply to some degree in any country.

The report identifies five factors, based on indicators in the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), that help determine a country's degree of fragility. These are:  

  • peaceful and inclusive societies

  • access to justice

  • accountable and inclusive institutions

  • economic inclusion and stability

  • capacities to prevent and adapt to social, economic, and environmental shocks and disasters

Unsurprisingly, the countries identified as weak in all five clusters form a very similar list of countries as earlier lists of fragile states. These are the Central African Republic (CAR),  Guinea, Chad, Swaziland, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Cote d’Ivoire, Haiti, Yemen, and Sudan.

But countries that are vulnerable based on just a couple of the five areas include some that have not traditionally been considered fragile -- for example, Venezuela, Fiji, and Kenya. In fact, the report says, 12 countries on the OECD "50 most fragile" have never appeared on a list of fragile states.

States that have a significant degree of fragility thus vary widely -- in size, location, income level, specific challenges, and more. The world's remaining 795 million hungry people have not yet all been "mapped" precisely, but we know that a large number of them live in fragile and conflict-affected states.

This blog post has only just begun to consider where to start in the world's difficult but essential task of reaching hungry people in such a variety of difficult situations. Future posts will consider some examples of countries where hungry people are concentrated and look at research on policy improvements that could better enable them to feed themselves and their families. 

 Michele Learner

 

Addis Financing for Development Conference: Sustain Global Leadership on Nutrition

The Third International Financing for Development Conference is well underway in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. Today, July 14, 2015, Bread for the World joined other leaders at a high-level side event—Financing Growth: Mobilizing Leadership and Investment in Nutrition. The objectives of the multi-stakeholder event included:

  • Highlight the importance of prioritizing nutrition financing in the proposed Sustainable Development Goals;
  • Explore the need for greater cooperation and partnership to mobilize all sources of finance—including domestic and international, public and private—to target both nutrition specific and nutrition sensitive interventions; and
  • Provide a launching pad for discussion on the global stunting target, and the first global financial estimates necessary to achieve the six global nutrition targets.

Why does investing in nutrition matter for the SDGs?

Stunting4Source: WHO.

Malnutrition is part of the unfinished MDG agenda. Improving nutrition among pregnant women, lactating mothers, and young children, in particular, is key to ending preventable child deaths and to unlocking the potential of the millions of people who face early childhood malnutrition.

Since 2000, there is new knowledge about the manifestation and impact of malnutrition. While significant progress in reducing the proportion of children who are underweight has been made in many regions, stunting is the leading cause of death and disability among children under 5. According to UNICEF, there are 162 million stunted children around the world today. Being far too short for their age is only the most visible sign. Their cognitive and physical development has been compromised by chronic malnutrition, and for their entire lives, they will be more likely to suffer from health problems—all of which will make them less productive than they could be.In the end, stunting is not only a tragedy for individuals and families, it also impedes a nation’s ability to develop economically. Among potential indicators of malnutrition, childhood stunting has proven to be the most powerful, based on its ability to capture inequity; reveal chronic problems of poor health, diet, and child-rearing practices; and focus on the period when the effects of malnutrition are largely irreversible (the 1,000 Days from pregnancy through age 2).

The Third Financing for Development Conference presents a golden opportunity for all of us—world leaders, civil society and the private sector—to commit to make nutrition-specific  and nutrition-sensitive interventions a higher priority in the post-2015 global development agenda. The proposed SDGs include an ambitious but achievable goal: “To end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture”. Currently, the world is off-track to meet the global stunting target to reduce the number of children under 5 who suffer from stunting by 40% by the year 2025. The Addis Conference presents a call to action to mobilize both financial and non-financial resources.  Bread for the World Institute's newly released paper, Strengthening Local Capacity: The Weak Link in Sustainable Development  argues that non-financial commitments such as strong domestic institutions, political will, data, monitoring and accountability are just as important to ensure that investments lead to impact.

Faustine_Typepad

 

Finance Local Capacity to Achieve Sustainable Development Goals

By Faustine Wabwire

Coming up July 13-16 is a key meeting of world leaders, the Third Financing for Development Conference, held this time in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The conference will bring together high-level political representatives, including many heads of state as well as heads of government and finance ministers. A wide range of nongovernmental and business organizations will also be present.

The conference is closely linked to the post-2015 development agenda. In fact, the goal of the conference and its communique, the Addis Outcome Document, is to agree on how the international community will mobilize and effectively use financial and non-financial resources to achieve development goals such as ending hunger and extreme poverty by 2030.

This year, 2015, is a critical moment for the future of development. At the sunset of the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) era, the world is looking forward to the more ambitious, universal Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). Unlike the MDGs, which were specific enumerated goals, the proposed post-2015 framework features a comprehensive “How to Get There” approach, with strong emphasis on what the framework terms Means of Implementation, Technology, and Capacity Building. It emphasizes the critical role of collective capacity—individuals, communities, and governments—“to access resources and to contribute in their own development.”

 LabA lab technician in Uganda. Trained healthcare workers are essential to local capacity. Photo credit: Bread for the World.

Bread for the World Institute’s newly released paper, Strengthening Local Capacity: The Weak Link in Sustainable Development, argues that strong local capacity is vital to enabling government institutions to respond to the needs and interests of those who are the poorest and most marginalized. The Means of Implementation of the post-2015 agenda will require mobilizing resources through instruments such as domestic revenues, trade, investments, and remittances as well as through partnerships among all actors.

This is an unprecedented moment for the United States to bolster its commitment to end hunger and extreme poverty by 2030. The United States should enthusiastically support and elevate local capacity on the global development agenda. It should also ensure that local capacity development remains a core objective of U.S. development assistance, so that its engagement with local partners genuinely unlocks their potential for the successful pursuit of country-led development outcomes in the post-2015 era.

Faustine Wabwire

Addis Ababa Financing for Development Conference... Whose Development?

I just arrived in Addis Ababa, the capital city of Ethiopia. Addis Ababa is an Amharic word that means "new flower". Often referred to simply as Addis, this century-old city stands at an elevation of 2,400m (7,874ft) above sea level, and is the third highest capital city in the world. This makes Addis Ababa's climate pleasantly cool for a good part of the year.

So, what brings me to Addis this July, 2015? Well--over the last year, the global community has been preparing for the Third Financing for Development Conference (FFD3) to take place this week (July 13-16) in Addis. It follows earlier global initiaves on financing global development: the Monterrey Consensus, and the Doha Declaration. FFD3 brings together high-level political representatives including Heads of State and Government, Ministers of Finance, civil society and the  business community. According to the United Nations, the conference will result in an intergovernmentally negotiated and agreed outcome, which should constitute an important contribution to, and support for the implementation of the universal post-2015 development agenda. FFD3 aims to:

  • Assess the progress made in the implementation of the Monterrey Consensus and the Doha Declaration; 
  • Address new and emerging issues including how to finance development objectives across the social, economic and environmental dimensions; and
  • Reinvigorate and strengthen the financing for development follow-up process.

As I navigate the streets to locate the Conference registration site, I am struck by the stark contrast between the well-secured environs of the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (where the Conference will take place), and the rest of the city. The latter is a busy world--tall buildings under construction, honking motorists, pedestrians criss-crossing the busy Bole highway, and occasional sirens signaling the arrival of a high-level political representative. The air is abuzz with the expectation that FFD3 "has come home to deliver" for the millions of youth who consider it a  historic moment in global development.

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Bread for the World Institute Analyst Faustine Wabwire with Addis Ababa University Graduates at the Third International Financing for Development Conference, Addis Ababa.

My first street conversation is with a group of fresh graduates from the Addis Ababa University, Class of 2015. An estimated 10,000 students graduated with Bachelors, Masters and Doctorate degrees that morning. Though they say FFD3 and the post-2015 agenda offer some hope for young people, they are also quick to admit that the future remains uncertain for many of them given the high unemployment rates in sub-Saharan Africa. Of Africa’s unemployed, 60% are young people, and youth unemployment rates are double those of adult unemployment in most African countries.

How can FFD3 effectively deliver for the millions of unemployed youth in Africa and around the world?

Goal 8 of the proposed Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs)-- "to promote sustained, inclusive and sustainable economic growth, full and productive employment and decent work for all”--recognizes that quality growth and jobs are key to ending Zero Hunger and ending extreme poverty by 2030. As world leaders meet this week, they should commit to a robust financing mechanism that will indeed Leave No One Behind. This demands maximizing the impact of  public-private partnerships and equitable economic growth; and sound policies that can generate decent employment opportunities, including social protection programs. 

Faustine_Typepad




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. 

Melinda_for 0603 blog
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
 

167 Million Fewer Hungry People in the World, But Sustained Funding Is Still Needed

The number of hungry people in the world has dropped below 800 million for the first time, according to this year’s State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI) report, released today. The report, authored by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and the World Food Program, takes stock of the progress being made toward global hunger goals.

SOFI_2015The report identifies what still needs to be done as the world transitions to the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, which will follow the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) when they sunset this year. In 1996, 182 countries at the World Food Summit committed “… to eradicate hunger in all countries, with an immediate view to reducing the number of undernourished people to half their present level no later than 2015.” The first of eight MDGs, all adopted in 2000, encapsulates this commitment, including the target “cutting in half the proportion of people who suffer from hunger by the year 2015.”

So how is the world doing?

The report reviews progress for every country and region. The news is good overall -- improvements outweighed setbacks. But as can be expected with such a broad and ambitious worldwide goal, problem areas remain, and in some regions hunger is still a stubborn problem.

Twenty-five years ago there were a billion hungry people. According to the new SOFI report, this number has now dropped to 795 million. The countries that improved the most had two features in common: strong economic growth that included investments in poor people, agriculture, and food production; and relative political stability. These countries were largely in East Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean. A solid majority of countries (72 of 129) have met the ambitious target of cutting hunger in half.

These are certainly impressive achievements. Consider that natural disasters, civil and regional conflict, and weak governments can damage to poor countries disproportionately. Also, the world population has grown rapidly: it is higher by 1.9 billion people than it was in 1990. Predictions of widespread famine have for the most part not come true, but certainly there have been famines, such as the 2011 one in Somalia that killed at least 100,000 children younger than 5.

Sub-Saharan Africa’s hunger rate is still more than 33 percent, and more African countries (24) are experiencing food insecurity now than in 1990. Hunger rates in countries with continuing crises are more than three times higher than elsewhere, according to SOFI. In Africa and South Asia, “progress has been slow overall, despite success stories at country and sub-regional levels … there is no one size fits all solution.”

This is why sustaining the development work being done in USAID’s flagship hunger and poverty reduction initiative, Feed the Future, is so important. Feed the Future’s focus areas were developed specifically to sustainably reduce global poverty and hunger. It has demonstrated progress in “significantly reduc[ing] both poverty and stunting (a measure of chronic food insecurity)” in countries where it operates, and adequate funding is essential so this progress can continue.    

Scott Bleggi

A Bi-Coastal Vizathon to Expose Hidden Hunger

Hidden-Hunger-Visathon-Announcment-Image, SF Register button, SF Register button, Washington, DC Register button, online

We're excited to announce our second annual HelpMeViz Data Vizathon event. On Saturday, May 30, we will partner with HelpMeViz.com and the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) to bring back our community of data heroes -- coders, data scientists, designers, and data visualizers -- to help shed light on the elusive problem of hidden hunger in the developing world. We’re especially happy to be expanding this year’s vizathon to two volunteer sites—one on the East Coast in Washington, DC, and the other on the West Coast in San Francisco.

IFPRI and Bread for the World Institute have drawn from several brand new hunger and nutrition data sets from Africa South of the Sahara to develop two data visualization challenges centered on two forms of  'hidden hunger':

Challenge 1: Exposing Hidden Hunger

“The ‘hidden hunger’ due to micronutrient deficiency does not produce hunger as we know it. You might not feel it in the belly, but it strikes at the core of your health and vitality.”  -Kul C. Gautam, former deputy executive director of UNICEF

Find a way to bring the problem of hidden hunger out of the shadows. Use the latest global data on micronutrient deficiencies to expose the story of hidden hunger and its massive human costs.

  • Demonstrate the mounting costs of hidden hunger (in lost potential, years, GDP, etc.).
  • Combine data with graphic art and photos to humanize the problem of hidden hunger, giving it a name and a face.

Challenge 2: Showing How Hunger Feeds Obesity:

Use new data on obesity and body mass index (BMI) to tell the story of obesity’s stunning rise across the developing world and the array of health problems that are beginning to mount as a result. This will mean finding ways to count the economic and health costs of obesity as well as showing the gaps in national healthcare systems being revealed by the rise in obesity. 

You can read more details on the data challenges at the event announcement on HelpMeViz.com.

Vizathon Details

HelpMeViz, IFPRI, and Bread for the World Institute are inviting up to 50 guests to each site on Saturday, May 30, from 9:30 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. to work on these two challenges. The Institute will provide the challenge data and space for participants to work. Breakfast, lunch, and afternoon snacks will be provided. Participants will also receive a printed copy of the 2016 Hunger Report, which focuses on hunger and health and will be released in November 2015.

The event will be blogged live on HelpMeViz. We hope that interested people all over the world will want to lend their voice and their skills to respond to these challenges. Data will be made available at the beginning of the event. Visualizations, conversations, and comments from both coasts and elsewhere will be posted to the vizathon’s website in real time.

If you would like to attend in Washington, DC, or San Francisco, click the links below to register.

Washington, DC: Register to attend the HelpMeViz 2015 Vizathon at the Washington, DC site.

San Francisco: Register to attend the HelpMeViz 2015 Vizathon at the San Francisco, CA site.

Participate Online: Register to participate in the HelpMeViz Vizathon online from anywhere!

Progress on Extreme Poverty: When the Numbers Don't Match the Proportions

By Michele Learner Photo for numbers versus proportions

The world has made an impressive amount of progress against hunger and poverty in the past two generations. Most people in the United States don't realize this. It's not a discrete event, so it doesn't attract much media coverage. Besides, the violence, diseases, natural disasters, and other bad news so prominent in news outlets are enough to give anyone pause when the United Nations and organizations like Bread for the World announce that the world can end hunger by 2030. Do we know what we're talking about?

For those who follow the news in developing countries closely, as most Institute Notes readers do, there's another reason for pause. The world met the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of cutting extreme poverty in half -- ahead of schedule, even. We have reported, as have many others, on the impressive and sustained economic growth rates in a number of African countries. So far, so good. But the number of people in Africa who live on less than $1.25 a day is growing.

Why? Brookings Institution analyst Laurence Chandy tackles the question head on. Growth in sub-Saharan Africa has been gaining momentum for 20 years now, averaging 5.2 percent a year since 1995. "Meanwhile," Chandy says, "the number of people on the continent reportedly living under $1.25 a day has continued to creep upwards from 358 million in 1996 to 415 million in 2011—the most recent year for which official estimates exist."

Chandy points out that fortunately, the evidence does not show that this is because all the gains from economic growth are going to the very wealthiest people. And the proportion of Africans who live in extreme poverty has in fact decreased -- Africa is not an exception to the world's success in cutting extreme poverty in half.  Sub-Saharan Africa's extreme poverty rate is still far too high, and that's an understatement. In the most recent data, again from 2011, 47 percent of the population lived on less than $1.25 a day. But that's down from 60 percent in 1996.

Chandy's piece lists five contributing factors to the "rising numbers despite progress" conundrum:

  • Starting from a greater depth of poverty -- poor people in Africa are, on average, further than poor people in other developing regions from the $1.25 a day threshold. The 2011 figures were 74 cents for Africans, 98 cents for others, so actually crossing the poverty threshold will take a longer period of progress.
  • Starting from a high level of inequality -- if Africa were one country, its income inequality rate would be higher than Latin America's. Thus, only part of the economic growth is going toward reducing extreme poverty.
  • Rapid population growth -- at 2.6 percent a year, compared with the world average of 1.1 percent, the growing economic pie must be cut into more slices.
  • A degree of mismatch between the economies doing well and those where many poor people live. Some of the poorest countries have been growing rapidly (Ethiopia, Mozambique), while others (notably the very populous Democratic Republic of the Congo, DRC) have not.
  • Problems with the quality of data. The data is from household surveys, whose results are affected by challenges in a variety of data collection and analysis tasks. Efforts are being made to improve its accuracy. For example, forthcoming new data from Nigeria is expected to show that the country's poverty rate is considerably lower, and falling faster, than previously believed. But for now, as Chandy puts it, "As a general rule, aggregate poverty numbers for Africa should be handled with care."

One thing I took away from Chandy's analysis is the importance of continuing to support progress while also exercising more patience. Progress on data is one area that we at the Institute often highlight, whether in an interactive visualization or a blog series such as Data to End Hunger

Population growth is another area that may simply take more time. Having fewer children is something that follows from but, understandably, lags progress on child mortality. Once parents are more confident that their children will survive, population growth often slows. When I was in Bangladesh for Bread in 2012, for example, several women raised the subject of family size and said that although their mothers had had five, six, or seven children, they themselves hoped to have two, perhaps three.

Another takeaway: people in fragile states need more support and solutions. What has happened in the DRC is not only a tragedy for millions of individuals and for a nation rich in natural resources, but an impediment to the progress of sub-Saharan Africa as a whole.

Chandy's conclusion is that while our intuition may tell us that Africa's economic growth is only benefiting the rich or that its size is exaggerated, the discrepancy between the numbers and proportions of people living in extreme poverty is better explained by looking more closely at Africa's poverty data.

Photo credit: Bread for the World

 Michele Learner

 

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