Developing strategies to end hunger

137 posts categorized "Foreign Aid Reform"

Resilience Ranks High On 2013 World Food Prize Agenda

Last week in Des Moines, Iowa, the 2013 World Food Prize Symposium brought together more than 1,000 international scientific, business, and policy experts from more than 65 countries. The weeklong dialogue on ending hunger has been called the “premier conference in the world on global agriculture." This year's World Food Prize Laureates are pioneers in biotechnology: Dr. Marc Van Montagu of Belgium and Dr. Mary Dell-Chilton and Dr. Robert Fraley of the United States.

Among the many key issues discussed was the need to build resilience: in families, in communities, in nations, and in the world. Bread for the World Institute's recent Briefing Paper, A Global Development Agenda: Toward 2015 and Beyond, emphasizes that responding effectively to climate change means building resilience in communities where people have always struggled to produce enough food. This task demands strong and organized political leadership, infrastructure, and resources at all levels — local, regional, national, and international. At the same time, understanding the interactions between agriculture and climate well enough to know how to respond effectively will require new investments. We need to improve data collection and analysis so that we can create and implement evidence-based adaptation measures that work.


Rev. David Beckmann, president of  Bread for the World,  and Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson,  president of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, The Holy See, The Vatican, at the World Food Prize Symposium. Photo Credit: John Coonrod


  • Cardinal Peter K.A. Turkson has served as the president of the Roman Catholic Church’s Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace in The Vatican since 2009. His remarks focused on the importance of addressing long-term food security issues while respecting both the land and rural populations, and of promoting sustainable agricultural development in poorer countries.
  • Tony Blair, former prime minister of the United Kingdom, is currently Patron of the Africa Governance Initiative. Mr. Blair spoke on a panel entitled 40 Chances in a reference to the number of growing seasons an average farmer has during his or her lifetime. With the theme of “Redefining the Fight Against Hunger, Poverty, and Suffering,” this discussion focused on the drivers of food security, which include aid effectiveness, trade, private sector investment, and technological innovation. Mr. Blair also announced new joint programs designed to foster market-based solutions to global challenges in the areas of hunger, poverty, and conflict.
  • President Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson of Iceland stressed that the need to respond to the problems caused by increasing climate volatility is one of the most pressing current issues worldwide. 

Also last week, the 2013 Global Hunger Index report was launched at the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) in Washington, DC. The report, The Challenge of Hunger: Building Resilience to Achieve Food and Nutrition Security, calls for breaking down the silos between the emergency relief and development communities and for focusing on approaches that enable people and systems to better resist, absorb, and transform in response to shocks such as droughts, floods, and food price volatility.

Click here to watch video footage of 2013 World Food Prize sessions (Note - Footage is grouped by day and time.)

Faustine Wabwire 

2014 World Development Report Champions Future Preparedness

Visual representation of the World Bank's 2014 World Development Report (source: The World Bank)

The World Bank released its 2014 World Development Report (WDR) last week. Previously, “risk management” was not a commonly-heard phrase in global development, but the WDR makes a good case for why it should be. As the world — developing regions especially — anticipates economic crises and more frequent natural disasters in the context of a rapidly rising population, the World Bank argues that people now more than ever need to be better prepared to cope with whatever the future may bring.

Over the past 25 years, there has been unprecedented progress in improving livelihoods in developing countries. Driven by global efforts such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), national and international leaders have joined with partners across civil society, the private sector, and local communities to identify and carry out effective strategies. The world has met the MDG target of cutting the rate of extreme poverty in half. Other measurements of the eight MDGs also reveal considerable progress. But the World Bank warns that these advancements could easily be lost if national governments do not take decisive steps to identify and prepare to mitigate both existing and emerging risks. New risks are, however, accompanied by a host of new opportunities. Inaction may be the riskiest option of all.

WDR $1.25 per day

Even after the unprecedented efforts of the past few years, more than half of the population of the developing world lives on less than $2.50 a day. And as we mentioned in Institute Notes last week, there are still 842 million people who are chronically hungry. All are vulnerable to falling deeper into poverty, hunger, and poor health when confronted with economic and environmental shocks or armed conflict.

The focus of this year’s WDR is on reliable information and sound planning. In its own words:

The WDR 2014’s value added resides in its emphasis on managing risks in a proactive, systemic, and integrated way. These characteristics underscore the importance of forward-looking planning and preparation in a context of uncertainty.

Other major players in global development concur with the WDR assessment. For example, the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) has just released its Global Hunger Index, which argues that greater resilience in international agricultural and economic systems is critical to boosting food and nutrition security.

In her recently launched briefing paper, Bread for the World Institute’s Faustine Wabwire also stresses the importance of resilience in whatever post-2015 plan emergesto replace the MDGs. Preparing more effectively for the future – whether in the United States or in developing countries – is (not coincidentally) a major emphasis of our 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America, to be released on November 25. Keep a lookout for upcoming Institute Notes posts with more details on this exciting new report as that date approaches!  

Derek Schwabe

Canada Measures Progress on Nutrition, Calls for Renewed Global Efforts

At the launch of the global Muskoka Initiative during the 2010 Group of 8 (G-8) summit, the government of Canada promised to “make a significant, tangible difference in the lives of the world’s most vulnerable people.” The Muskoka Initiative, signed by all G-8 member countries, focuses on articulating principles, developing measures, and promoting transparency and accountability in health outcomes.

Canada and the other Muskoka signatories have contributed to impressive progress in the past two years. According to the Canadian Network for Maternal, Newborn and Child Health (CAN-MNCH), in 2012, an extra 700,000 children reached their fifth birthday as compared to 2010. In more than 125 countries, maternal death rates have fallen sharply in the past five years.

Three years into the initiative, Canada is on track to meet its five-year commitment of Can$2.85 billion (the Canadian and U.S. dollars are currently close in value; Canada’s pledge is about U.S. $2.76 billion). It has already disbursed 60 percent of the total. Moreover, encouraged by the results associated with its investment, Canada recently committed an additional Can$203.5 million to support the Muskoka principles. Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently hosted a United Nations event on the health of pregnant women and young children, where he made the announcement.

Impact 2025
A symposium, IMPACT 2025: Working Together for Global Maternal, Newborn & Child Health, was held last month in Ottawa by the Canadian government and CAN-MNCH. According to reporting from the event, “…despite some remarkable progress, improvements in [maternal, newborn, and child health, MNCH] have been uneven across and within countries.” Participants came together to make a series of recommendations to the Canadian government to support current investments by:

·         Maintaining political momentum

·         Leveraging global leadership in MNCH to reach the Millennium Development Goals

·         Strengthening accountability frameworks

·         Promoting private sector engagement

·         Collaborating through a “Whole-of-Canada” approach

These efforts by our neighbor to the north remind those of us in the United States that there is global political momentum behind efforts to improve health and nutrition outcomes for women and children. This global nutrition momentum confronts the “massive unfinished agenda” in nutrition that I wrote about previously. Global efforts must respond to these unmet needs through new collaborations that leverage available resources and emphasize best practices.

Such collaborations will help build an evidence base of what has produced successful results—an important tool for moving forward, as emphasized in the 2013 Lancet Series on Maternal and Child Nutrition. Advocacy groups such as Bread for the World need these successes to help make the case to the U.S. Congress that sustaining robust funding for nutrition is a smart investment of taxpayer resources—prevention efforts that will be leveraged by other donors and by national governments to make a “significant, tangible difference” in the lives of millions. 

Scott Bleggi

Immigrant Remittances Reduce Poverty and Hunger


The U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) issued its annual report on food security this month. Its conclusions reinforce a growing consensus: immigration reduces hunger.

The role of immigrant remittances (the money immigrants send home to their families) in
reducing hunger and poverty in their home countries was one of the key points of the FAO report, The State of Food Insecurity in the World. The report points out that not only are remittances important to reducing hunger and poverty, in many cases they play a larger role in reducing poverty than foreign assistance.

In some countries, remittances now rival foreign direct investment in overall importance to the economy, and in the near future, this may be true of developing countries in general (see graphic above).

This is how the report’s executive summary describes the impact of remittances:

“Remittances, which have globally become three times larger than official development assistance, have had signi­ficant impacts on poverty and food security. This report suggests that remittances can help to reduce poverty, leading to reduced hunger, better diets and, given appropriate policies, increased on-farm investment.”

Remittances not only enable the families of people working outside the country to pay for the food, shelter, clothing, and health care they need, but in some cases have increased small-scale investment, including in agriculture. The State of Food Insecurity in the World reports that this is “particularly beneficial to growth where food production and distribution still rely on small-scale and local networks. This holds in particular for sub-Saharan African countries.”

Bread for the World Institute has analyzed the impact of remittances on poverty in Central America and the potential these resources hold for creating jobs and promoting economic development. Our analysis finds that it is useful for remittances to be complemented by development assistance programs that build capacity in recipient communities so that people can more effectively invest the money sent to them—including in agriculture and other food security efforts.

The FAO report emphasizes that there is no single solution to hunger. It will take a variety of strategies to eliminate hunger and poverty—development assistance, public-private partnerships, and indigenous economic development are only a few examples. But The State of Food Insecurity in the World highlights the key role of remittances—and immigration broadly—in reducing hunger and driving economic growth in both developing and developed nations.

Andrew Wainer

SOFI Puts Number of Hungry People at 842 Million -- An Improvement

This morning with the release of its annual report, The State of Food Insecurity in the World (SOFI), the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) announced a continued drop in the number of people suffering from chronic hunger. The new figure is 842 million, which is 26 million fewer people than last year’s report of 868 million.

This improvement offers additional evidence that the global response to the 2007-2008 food price crisis – a response that included a U.S. pledge of $3.5 billion for food security, agriculture, and nutrition and led to the establishment of Feed the Future – helped prevent a longer-term reversal of global progress against hunger and is contributing to current progress on hunger. The food price crisis, during which the costs of staple grains such as rice and maize suddenly doubled or tripled, is believed to have driven an additional 100 million people into poverty. 

Undernourishment in the developing regions

 FAO reports that if the average progress of the past 21 years continues through 2015, malnutrition in developing regions will reach a level close to the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) target of reducing hunger by half, but “considerable and immediate additional efforts” will be necessary to fully meet the goal. The report recommends that food security and agriculture remain targeted priorities on the post-MDG, post-2015 development agenda in order to sustain progress.

The SOFI report also notes:

  • In some countries, there are many more stunted children than the data on how many people lack sufficient calories would suggest. Because stunting is evidence of chronic malnutrition in early childhood and is accompanied by irreversible damage to a child’s physical and cognitive development, “nutrition-enhancing interventions are crucial” and require a range of food security and nutrition actions in areas such as agriculture, health, hygiene, and water supply.
  • The most signi­ficant decreases in hunger have occurred in East and Southeast Asia and in Latin America. Sub-Saharan Africa still has the highest hunger rates. Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia, and North Africa made only modest progress over the past year, while West Asia recorded no progress.
  • Though economic growth is a key driver of progress against hunger and poverty, it is not always equitably shared. In many countries, particularly middle-income countries, people who are among the “poorest of the poor” are in danger of being left behind.

You can access the full SOFI report, the executive summary, and the most recent country-level data for every indicator here at the SOFI webpage on FAO’s website.

Derek Schwabe


First Global Gathering of SUN Countries in New York

Hunger Report Monday

Efforts to improve maternal and child nutrition reach new heights this week as representatives from 42 member countries of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement gather in New York for their first-ever global meeting.

As one of the events taking place on the margins of this week’s United Nations General Assembly meetings, the SUN Global Gathering will draw increased political attention to the urgent problem of early childhood malnutrition and provide a space where government and civil society leaders can share “best practices” from their experiences in seeking solutions to malnutrition at the national and local levels. As the General Assembly takes up the issue of how to formulate the global development goals that will succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), which expire in December 2015, the presence of SUN leaders will send a clear message: nutrition must become a pillar of the post-2015 development agenda.  

The surest indicator of chronic malnutrition is stunting. One in four children around the world is stunted—and being far too short for their age is only the most visible sign. When children are stunted, they lose—not only in physical size, but in health, physical and cognitive development, and the long-term capacity to lead a productive life. Nutrition is a critical element of human development that affects many other issues, including poverty, education, agriculture, gender equity, economic development, and climate change. (You can read more about the cross-cutting nature of nutrition interventions here).

The timeline above reminds us that much has happened since September 2010, when developing countries founded the SUN movement and donors—led by the United States and Ireland—launched the 1,000 Days Call to Action to support it. What started as the recommendations of a scientific series in the leading medical journal The Lancet on what we know about early childhood malnutrition has grown into a global partnership. To date, 42 countries (up from 35 since this past June) with high rates of maternal and child malnutrition have joined SUN. The movement has grown rapidly as governments and civil society leaders increasingly recognize the irreversible damage that early childhood malnutrition inflicts on whole generations—and, conversely, the tremendous return on national investments that prevent it.

The 2013 Hunger Report is chock-full of stories on maternal and child nutrition, stunting, the 1,000 Days window, and the SUN movement. It’s all related to our recommendation for a bull’s-eye goal of ending mass hunger and extreme poverty by 2040. 

Download the report at to get the full story on Bread for the World’s recommendations on nutrition in the 1,000 days from pregnancy to age 2. Derek Schwabe

Recognizing Nutrition-Sensitive Development Actions

When we look at ways to improve maternal and child nutrition, better availability and access to food first comes to mind.  This has been the traditional response in agricultural development assistance, but evidence has shown that increasing farm yields, while increasing producer incomes, in and of itself will not improve individual and household nutrition status.

If providing more food alone won’t improve nutrition, what other interventions are needed? One is a direct, or “nutrition-specific”, intervention that addresses the immediate causes.  These have been well-defined in the first Lancet Series on Maternal and Child Nutrition, and have a strong evidence base showing their effectiveness. Interventions such as providing micronutrients (vitamins and minerals) such as zinc, iron and iodized salt were shown to have a profound impact on childhood stunting and early childhood death.

The studies also showed that to be effective in the long-term, these interventions needed to be supplemented by improvements in the underlying, or indirect, causes of malnutrition.  Bread for the World Institute published a briefing paper on defining these other types of interventions, and addressing malnutrition through “nutrition-sensitive” development actions. These can take place in multiple sectors, including agriculture. Interventions that address poverty, gender inequality, food insecurity, education, health and access to basic services can all improve nutrition.

An examination of 14 different studies on improving water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) in ten low and middle-income countries shows that improvements in this area can “slightly improve height growth in children under five years of age”, which is a measure of malnutrition.  Only slightly? Well, that’s disappointing.  Lawrence Haddad reported in his blog that “we shouldn’t give up” on WASH interventions based on this lukewarm report for a number of reasons, including the fact that the study was only 12 months in duration. And the authors stated that “none of the studies is of high methodological quality”.

A Peace Corps latrine project in Senegal nears completion.  Photo credit: Charity Water

Are WASH efforts an effective way to improve nutrition? Yes! A number of current studies will add to what are the first data points in an evidence base of nutrition-sensitive development actions.  The evidence base of successful nutrition outcomes based on these actions is being built. According to the second Lancet series on Maternal and Child Nutrition, nutrition-sensitive development actions “have an enormous potential to enhance the scale and effectiveness of nutrition-specific interventions”.

Key to sustaining improved nutrition outcomes is a combination of both nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive actions. Identifying, measuring and reporting on them across developmental assistance sectors in overseas projects will quickly build an evidence base of successful nutrition outcomes.

The U.S. Agency for International Development is developing its agency nutrition strategy, one that will eventually grow to be “whole of government”.  Recognizing that many of its global development assistance activities, especially those in the Feed the Future Initiative, already have substantial nutrition-sensitive components should be an important part of developing that strategy.

Scott Bleggi

Saving more Lives in Syria

Syrian Refugees

Syrian refugees shortly after crossing the border into Jordan. (UNHCR/J. Kohler)

Syria dominates our media outlets, news pages, and Twitter and Facebook feeds. The conflict itself and the prospect of external intervention get most of the attention. The millions displaced (now one third of the Syrian population) and left to face homelessness and severe poverty and hunger somehow don't get as much. More of the world’s refugees are Syrian than any other nationality, and millions more have been forced from their homes but remain in the country. They have lost everything – their homes, livelihoods, and possessions — and are in need of emergency humanitarian assistance. 

Humanitarian relief is one of the most important things the United States can do to save lives in Syria. To help cover current and future needs, the United States can stretch the value of its aid dollars to reach more people, even without an increase in the budget. This is important because there is no telling when the conflict will end. Right now, there’s no end in sight.

The United States is the largest donor of emergency food assistance in Syria. A sizable share of that assistance is being provided through cash transfers, vouchers, and locally and regionally sourced food via the Emergency Food Security Program (EFSP). This new program, started just last year, makes the process of providing emergency food aid much more efficient and cost-effective. It eliminates the high costs in time and money of shipping food thousands of miles from the United States to the people who need it. Unfortunately, EFSP is an exception to the way food aid is delivered, not the rule. Syria, Numbers at a Glance

The current food aid system that’s been in place since 1954 requires that bulk commodities be purchased from only U.S. agribusiness corporations  and then shipped through U.S.-based shipping companies before being dispersed at the local level. These shipments take anywhere from three to five months to arrive, which can be far too late to help emergency situations. And once the food is dispersed, it often undercuts the efforts of local and regional farmers to sell their crops, dealing a backhanded blow to longer-term local food security and economic stability. The majority of U.S. food aid is still delivered under this archaic system.

A few months ago, President Obama proposed serious reforms that would help remove the long-entrenched barriers that waste U.S. taxpayer money and, more importantly, innocent lives across the world. These reforms alone would enable the United States to reach an additional two to four million people with food aid, and other targeted reforms could extend that reach to up to 17.1 million people. None of these reforms would increase current aid spending. In a situation like Syria where people are being displaced by the tens of thousands per week, those numbers matter immensely.

There is intense debate about the role of the United States and other countries in Syria’s civil war. But there should be no debate about changing “business as usual” food aid policies to better help the millions of innocent men, women, and children caught in the middle. Derek Schwabe

U.N Secretary General Supports Goal to End Hunger and Malnutrition in the Post-2015 Agenda

The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have served as a shared framework for global action and cooperation on development since 2000.

Ahead of the upcoming United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) next month to define a new universal development agenda, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has released a report, A Life of Dignity for All. The report contains updates on the progress of the MDGs and his vision for the road ahead. While the report focuses mostly on accelerating the MDGs, it also emphasizes prioritizing of key issues including hunger and malnutrition, women empowerment, poverty and inequality.

With less than 1,000 days to the 2015 overall target date for achieving the MDGs, what is clear is that bold action is needed in many areas. For example, although progress has been tremendous on several goals, one in eight people worldwide still remain hungry.

Bread for the World Institute’s upcoming Briefing Paper will provide in-depth analysis and recommendations for the post-2015 global development agenda. It emphasizes that the post-2015 global development framework needs to build on MDG progress while simultaneously identifying new challenges and opportunities to ending hunger and poverty by 2030.

Faustine Wabwire

Climate Change Caused by Humans, Likely to Undo Progress on Hunger


The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) has determined with 95 percent certainty that human activity is responsible for Earth’s climate changes between 1950 and 2000, which include rising average surface temperatures and increased climactic volatility. In a draft summary of its forthcoming climate report that was leaked this past weekend, the United Nations panel of top climate scientists notes that the 95 percent figure reflects more confidence in the data than ever before.

The report, the IPCC’s fifth climate assessment since its inception in 1988, also includes an increase in the estimate of how far sea levels will rise because of climate change. The IPCC now believes that if greenhouse gas emissions continue to grow at projected rates, oceans could rise by as much as three feet. That’s enough to severely threaten the very existence of some of the world’s largest cities including New York, Guangzhou (China), Mumbai (India), Nagoya (Japan) to name a few.

Global Mean Sea Level Rise, IPCC Report

This image from the leaked first-order draft of the IPCC's 5th Assessment Report illustrates the group's high-end projections for sea-level increases in the 21st century. (UN IPCC)

Bread for the World Institute focuses primarily on the impact of climate change on hunger -- and on people with the fewest resources to mitigate the damage it is already causing. The world’s poorest people stand to lose the most. The OECD recently reported that climate change is adding another layer of complexity to the already crippling burden of vulnerabilities that poor people must manage. Climate change further reduces access to clean water and threatens agricultural production systems, which in turn endanger the fragile health and food security status of many people in African, Asian, and Latin American countries. In areas where livelihood options are already limited, lower crop yields mean more widespread hunger. Migration is one of the only solutions in areas where climate change is putting coastal land underwater or is projected to do so soon. 

The IPCC’s latest report amplifies a reality that astoundingly somehow still seems to need repeating: climate change can rapidly reverse the world’s hard-won progress against hunger and poverty. Unless decisive action is taken by global leaders in both rick and poor countries to reduce emissions and build resilience in the developing world, one of the worst consequences of climate change – hunger – will become a more intractable and perhaps more widespread problem. Derek Schwabe

Stay Connected

Bread for the World