Developing strategies to end hunger

91 posts categorized "Good Governance"

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

In Efforts to End Hunger, Inclusion Matters

 On October 9, the World Bank will launch Inclusion Matters: The Foundation for Shared Prosperity, a report detailing the need to confront social exclusion in order to end extreme poverty and hunger. It is the World Bank's first-ever report on this vital but sometimes overlooked topic.

The U.N. Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) have spurred significant progress on extreme poverty, hunger, child mortality, and other global problems. It's possible, however, to meet MDG targets while still leaving the poorest people behind. For example, it proved much easier to cut the rate of extreme poverty in half by enabling people closest to the poverty line to cross just over it to "non-poor" status, than by trying to bring those in the deepest poverty above the poverty threshold.

This is why one of the main recommendations of the U.N. Secretary General's High-Level Panel on the post-2015, post-MDG development agenda, which released its report in May 2013, is to leave no one behind by focusing a new set of development goals on reaching excluded groups.

In virtually all societies, there are people who are ostracized. Socially excluded groups confront barriers that prevent them from fully participating in the political, economic, and social life of their nations. The World Bank report explains that they are "branded by stereotypes, stigmas, and superstitions."  

In order to build shared prosperity for all, the global community must respond to social exclusion in all its forms. The High-Level Panel report described the task as ensuring that "no person -- regardless of ethnicity, gender, geography, disability, race, or status -- is denied universal human rights and basic economic opportunities."

The Inclusion Matters report presents what we know about social exclusion and its costs. Most importantly, it emphasizes that societies can instead plan and achieve social inclusion. It will almost always take time, but it can be done.

On October 9, download the report from the World Bank's social inclusion site or use hashtag #inclusionmatters on Twitter.

Michele Learner

The Clock is Ticking: Toward 2015

In May 2013, the High Level Panel on the post-2015 development agenda—a group tasked with advising the United Nations Secretary General—released its report A New Global Partnership: Eradicate Poverty and Transform Economies through Sustainable Development. The report advocates five “global shifts”:

  • Leave no one behind;
  • Put sustainable development at the core;
  • Transform economies for jobs and inclusive growth;
  • Build peace and effective, open, and accountable institutions for all; and
  • Forge a new global partnership.

Bread for the World Institute's latest briefing paper, A Global Development Agenda: Toward 2015 and Beyond, emphasizes that the post-2015 development agenda provides an opportunity to promote equity and equitable growth in all countries. It is also an opportunity to recognize linkages across key areas: food security and good nutrition for all; agricultural development; women’s economic empowerment; and good governance and effective institutions. Goals should be formulated in ways that capture the great potential of coordinated approaches, which have proven to be highly effective in responding to multiple development challenges.

Last week in New York, a special event convened by the president of the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) sought to review progress made towards achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), and to chart the way toward December 2015, the MDG deadline.The Millennium Development Goals Outcome Document released at the event calls on the global community to build on past achievements, redouble its efforts, and accelerate progress on the MDGs.

Faustine Wabwire

Ethiopia Beats Odds to Reach MDG 4 Early

Last week, the United Nations Children'sFund (UNICEF) released its 2013 progress report Committing to Child Survival: A Promise Renewed. The report details trends in under-5 mortality over the past two decades. It also provides highlights and statistics of the work that has already been to date. The big news in the report is that despite overwhelming odds, Ethiopia has already achieved the Millennium Development Goal 4 Target A: Reduce by two thirds, between 1990 and 2015, the under-5 mortality rate. This is worth celebrating given that the country faces a number of challenges, including a severe shortage of doctors and health professionals. For instance, with a population of over 80 million, there is one doctor for every 36,000 people. Additionally, Ethiopia is one of the 34 countries that account for 90% of the global burden of malnutrition.

Ethiopia's tremendous progress on MDG 4 has been made possible  by its political commitment at the country level and external support, which have enabled use of innovative programs like frontline health extension workers within communities.

Ethiopia reaches MDG 4

Photo credit: USAID

Other examples of country progress highlighted in the report include:

  • In Bangladesh, under-five mortality rate decreased by 72 per cent from 1990 to 2012, mainly thanks to expanding immunization for children, delivering oral rehydration therapy to treat diarrhoea, and providing Vitamin A supplementation. Expanding a network of community health workers also improved the quality of healthcare and led to an increased use of health facilities. Women’s empowerment, education for mothers, improving mothers’ health and implementing strategies to reduce poverty also contributed to reducing child deaths.
  • In Brazil, under-five mortality rate decreased by 77 per cent between 1990 and 2012, thanks to a combination of tactics. These include efforts to deliver healthcare at the community level, improvements in sanitation conditions, providing mothers with knowledge, promoting breastfeeding and expanding immunization.
  • Ethiopia, a co-sponsor of the Call to Action, has recorded tremendous gains in reducing the under-five mortality rate, with a dramatic 67 per cent reduction since 1990. The health extension program implemented in Ethiopia is one example of how critical community health workers are providing quality care to children and mothers in remote areas. The program which was launched in 2004 currently deploys 38,000 government-paid female health extension workers. UNICEF supports the program by providing supplies including vaccine storage equipment, delivery beds and medications, and supporting training for health workers. The program also provides treatment of severe acute malnutrition, diarrhea, malaria and pneumonia.Faustine Wabwire

World Bank President Reminds G-20 to Step-Up Investments in the Developing World


World Bank President, Dr. Jim Kim comments on G-20 meetings in St. Petersburg. (World Bank)

The Group of 20 (G-20) wrapped-up its two-day leaders’ summit in St. Petersburg, Russia, last week. World Bank President Dr. Jim Kim cut to the chase about global poverty—reminding global leaders still uneasy about a sagging world economy that continued investment in the developing world is not only critical to ending poverty and hunger, but good for business. With little more than two years left until the deadline for the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in December 2015, Kim challenged rich countries and private sector investors not to shy away from, but instead to redouble, financial commitments in poor countries.

Kim emphasized the increasingly pressing need for leaders to “grow our global infrastructure facility.” Infrastructure—both physical and financial—is still a key item on the G-20 development agenda. This is because improving infrastructure is a prerequisite for sustained progress on the MDGs. Though donor support for it is a stated priority for most developing countries, it has been largely absent from donors’ agendas. Agricultural development has its own specific infrastructure needs (e.g., storage facilities to preserve crops longer), as does the health sector (e.g., programs to train more health workers). Among the many physical infrastructure challenges, building roads to areas without access to services is one of the most important. Cross-sector infrastructure needs include collecting, analyzing, and disseminating data.

The G-20 agenda has included the problem of high and volatile food prices ever since the initial food price crisis in 2007. In June 2011, the G-20 agriculture ministers called for greater transparency in commodity markets and committed their countries to collectively establish an early warning system that would compile information on food stocks, crop supplies, and demand. The ministers also agreed to “ensure that national food-based safety nets can work at times when food prices rise sharply and governments cannot access the food required for these safety nets at an affordable price.”

Commitments to economic growth in the developing world can be easily derailed in the name of shorter-term goals. But as Kim pointed out, the G-20 must keep its priorities straight. Taking steps to help millions of people who need better economic opportunities should be at the top of its agenda.

Read more about the G-20 and investments to end hunger in Chapter 2 of the 2013 Hunger Report, Within Reach: Global Development Goals. 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

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

Obama, Congress and a Bigger Dream


President Obama's full speech on the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. (Video credit: the White House)

Yesterday, President Obama ascended the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, DC, to deliver a speech. The speech was given at nearly the exact place and time as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s monumental “I Have a Dream” speech, exactly 50 years later. An irresistable national discussion led up to that moment, comparing the two men and the two Americas of then and now.

Obama acknowledged the determination and resilience of King and his generation, especially those "whose names never appeared in the history books, never got on TV." He thanked them for dreaming big enough to envision, 50 years later, a black president and a more self-aware country that has started its journey toward equality.

The U.S. Census Bureau released a report last week to commemorate the 50th anniversary of King’s speech and celebrate the progress made since 1963. Here are a few examples of that progress:

  • The median income of black Americans has nearly doubled.
  • The black poverty rate has fallen by 14 percent.
  • Twenty-six percent of blacks had high school diplomas in 1964; 85 percent did in 2012.
  • The number of black college graduates jumped from 4 percent to 21 percent.
  • The proportion of the African American population holding public office has more than tripled.

President Obama is arguably the most visible symbol of all that is to be celebrated. But yesterday he bore the challenge of going beyond one dream fulfilled to face the many deferred.

In many ways, African Americans still live on the margins of American society. Though the black poverty rate has declined, in 2011 it was still 27.6 percent — more than double the white poverty rate. It was even higher among black children — 37.4 percent lived in poverty. Food security (hunger) rates track the poverty numbers closely. And the unemployment rate is just as disturbing; today it is twice as high for blacks as for whites, and—reflecting the nation’s painfully slow recovery from the Great Recession-- even higher now than in 1963.

Not surprisingly, educational outcomes for blacks tell a similar story, with whites nearly twice as likely to graduate from college as blacks. And we know that poverty, hunger, and unemployment are inextricably tied to a student’s educational outcomes.

Rarely mentioned in the recent media coverage is the full name of the March on Washington: The March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

As the president acknowledged, it is good jobs that all Americans, blacks especially, need most today to make the climb out of poverty and hunger. President Obama and Congress can do a lot to create jobs through policy. They can invest, first in the American people by providing more accessible high-quality education, and second in national infrastructure that can open opportunities for the private sector to drive economic growth. Yes, all investments demand an upfront cost, but if the investment isn’t made now, the cost to generations of Americans will be far greater. We can do the right thing in a fiscally responsible way.    

The president and congress can and must choose to dream even bigger than Dr. King. We have all the policy tools we need to end U.S. poverty and hunger in less than a generation. Will an elementary school student who watches today’s speech on TV be the one to stand at the Lincoln Memorial in 25 years and celebrate such an achievement? Derek Schwabe

A Nutrition Champion Prepared to Outrage and Inspire

This week, the Chicago Council on Global Affairs introduced a new website, Outrage and Inspire, to serve as a launch pad for the work of Roger Thurow, senior fellow for Global Agriculture and Food Policy.    IMG_4696 Most recently author of The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change, Thurow is a long-time friend of Bread for the World and a true anti-hunger champion.   He is a former writer for the Wall Street Journal and a senior fellow at the Chicago Council. The site will follow Thurow as he travels to a range of countries reporting on global hunger, poverty, and food and nutrition security.

For The Last Hunger Season, Thurow followed the lives of four farm families in western Kenya for a year, encompassing the cycle of preparing the land, planting the seeds, suffering through the inevitable “hunger season,” and finally harvesting the crops. He wrote about how the One Acre Fund has helped these smallholder farmers, mostly women, by providing training in essential practices such as obtaining high quality seed, planting in rows, and measuring and using precise micro dosages of fertilizer. Thurow’s book balances the horror of not being able to feed a child with the hope raised by economic empowerment. Changes are under way that just might end “hunger seasons” for good.

In his inaugural Outrage and Inspire post, “Making the Invisible Visible,” Thurow tells the story of a birth in rural India, interspersed with findings from the new Lancet series on maternal and child health. The woman giving birth has access to more modern medical facilities and knowledge about the needs of her newborn daughter than women in her village ever have before, but the research shows that both the mother and daughter can expect to encounter the reality of gender inequality, including unequal access to nutritious food.

The 1,000 Days – the critical window for human nutrition that lasts from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday -- will be the subject of Thurow’s next project and a major focus of the new website. By examining chronic malnutrition and the damage it causes in early childhood, Thurow will contribute to the important conversation on what is being done around the world to combat stunting and malnutrition among children, and what is still needed for communities to be able to prevent stunting and the lifelong damage it causes. In order to solve the problem, Thurow says, we will need “outrage and inspiration.”

Building champions for improving nutrition outcomes around the world is an effective way for advocates to advance the nutrition agenda, especially for improved nutrition in women and children.  As we heard at the Bread for the World Institute and Concern Worldwide “Sustaining Political Commitments to Scaling Up Nutrition” meeting June 10, nutrition champions come in many forms. They can be grassroots organizers, Bread for the World members who contact their congressional offices, or people based in Washington, DC, who visit Capitol Hill or push the administration on nutrition policy issues. Internationally, champions may be members of civil society in countries with significant malnutrition. They can hold their governments accountable for funding and policy commitments to make progress against malnutrition.

Champions certainly include people like Thurow, whose commitment to ending hunger is clear through his efforts to “outrage and inspire” others to action. Congratulations to Roger Thurow on his new blog from his many friends in Bread for the World and the nutrition stakeholder community. We recommend it to all who would like to see a nutrition champion in action – and all who are not afraid to be outraged and inspired by examples of victories over food insecurity and malnutrition.

Katy Merckel

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