Developing strategies to end hunger

18 posts categorized "Millennium Challenge Account"

UN Hears One Million Voices on “Development After 2015”

One Million Voices on Development After 2015

In a survey of over 800,000 people globally, access to nutritous food ranked among the most frequently mentioned development challenges. (Source: World We Want, A Million Voices report)

Since last year, leadership at the United Nations has been working very hard to find out what development issues matter most to ordinary people around the world. The process of developing the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2000 has been criticized as not inclusive; the U.N. wants things to be different as the world sets successor development goals for the period after December 2015, the deadline for the MDGs.

So they’ve set out to poll everyday people the world over about their priority issues -- and last week they were proud to report that they’ve heard one million voices. And it turns out people had a lot to say.

The MDGs were created to drive improvement in the livelihoods of the world’s poorest people -- and they have. More progress was made against hunger and poverty in the 2000s than during any other decade in history. But the exclusive group of officials from donor countries and international organizations that came up with the MDGs largely overlooked a valuable resource -- arguably the most authoritative source -- on how to overcome poverty: poor people themselves. You can read more about the MDG process and its implications in the 2013 Hunger Report.

The World We Want 2015 effort reached its one million voices through a combination of 88 open national consultations, 11 thematic dialogues, and an online global survey amplified by social media. The essential question put to global citizens: “What issues matter most to you?” Here’s a brief look at some of the main ideas expressed:

  • Top issues: Education, health care, government accountability, better job opportunities;
  • Top values: Universal human rights, equality, justice, and security (underpinned by more accountable governments);
  • The urgency of improving people’s lives today;
  • Concern about growing inequalities (e.g., income, wealth, access to education);
  • The interconnectedness of issues and the need for a holistic, sustainable set of solutions;
  • The need for data collection methods that measure progress more accurately.

Although The World We Want is particularly focused on hearing from people in developing nations, who are most urgently affected by development problems, it is intended to collect opinions globally and to include a wide spectrum of views. Americans are not yet well represented in the results – only 26,000 of the first million respondents are from the United States. But people here have more reason than ever to be concerned about “the world we want” – and the country we want. During the Great Recession, hunger in the United States grew by almost 40 percent, and it has barely budged since the recession’s official end nearly four years ago. Today, one in six Americans struggles to put food on the table.

The World We Want reminds us that most people around the world want the same things: quality education, jobs, health care, and yes, food. And we’ve learned from the MDG experience that when we set goals whose progress can be measured, we can accomplish more in less time. That’s why more Americans need to speak up about the issues we care about and press our elected leaders to adopt and carry out realistic plans to solve our most critical problems.

The 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America, will be released in less than three weeks here in Washington, DC. Using lessons from the world’s experiences with the MDGs, it lays out a feasible plan for the United States to confront our high levels of inequality, unemployment, and poverty directly and to end hunger in this country by 2030.

If you haven’t yet, take the time to tell the U.N. about the world you want. We’ll keep you posted on the 2014 Hunger Report release here on Institute Notes. Derek Schwabe  

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

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


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

A Revolution in Statistics: New U.N. Standards to Measure Sustainable Development

Hunger Report Monday

Late last week, the United Nations Statistics Division announced its adoption of a new integrated standard to measure progress toward the often elusive target of sustainable development. U.N. member states agreed to use the new System of Environmental-Economic Accounting (SEEA) to improve and standardize reporting on the interrelationships among the economy, the environment, and society.

It is much harder to prevent problems that we can’t see coming, so quantifying what is “sustainable” is a key step toward preventing the increasing volatility of Earth’s climate from halting or reversing the past generation’s progress against hunger and malnutrition.

Sustainable development is the effort to ensure that all people have a decent standard of living without depleting Earth’s natural resources or endangering its ecosystems. Since 2000, we’ve heard about it most often in the context of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). MDG 7, ensuring environmental sustainability, has gained a reputation as one of the most difficult to measure and compare across countries and regions. Despite its complexities, sustainable development has become a watchword as the world faces the threat of climate change.

Perhaps the most promising element of the SEEA is its potential to establish a standardized set of definitions and concepts that countries can use to guide their data collection, compilation and analysis. So far, very few indicators of sustainable development have been accepted across the developing world. There are even fewer that all countries are able to collect data for.

Physical flows of natural inputs, products and residualsThis figure from the SEEA central framework illustrates the direct and residual effects of physical goods flows between the economy and the environment.

The innovators of the SEEA claim that the majority of countries already collect most of the data required for it to work. The ingenuity is found in its ability to repurpose that data and integrate it in new ways to better measure the interrelationships among the environment, the economy, and society. U.N. DESA’s head, Alessandra Alfieri, called it a “revolution in statistics,” that will help policy makers better understand how a change in the environment can cause a change in the economy, and ultimately a change for poor and hungry people.

Chapter 1 of the 2013 Hunger Report emphasizes the need for more reliable and better integrated ways of collecting and analyzing data, not only on hunger and malnutrition, but on their causes (like climate):

When the MDGs were launched, it was clear that the capacity of developing countries to collect and analyze data had to improve…Overall, the capacity to obtain accurate data has improved since 2000, but in some countries, especially among the least developed, yawning gaps remain. Reliable data is the bedrock of effective policy interventions. Without rock-solid data, policymakers can’t know for sure whether their interventions actually address the fundamental reasons that people are poor. 

We will not end hunger if we do not shift toward more sustainable patterns of production and consumption. And we cannot separate our food systems from the management and preservation of our natural resources, from food security and from sustainable development itself. The SEEA is a crucial next step that adapts our data collection methods to that new reality.

Read more about data collection for sustainable development in the 2013 Hunger Report, Within Reach: Global Development Goals. Also check out guest contributor, Jose Graziano’s article on achieving sustainable development, 'The Greener Revolution.' Derek Schwabe

Timeline: An Eventful First 1,000 Days (and then some)

Hunger Report Monday

Get ready. Next month Bread for the World and Concern Worldwide will team-up with other partners to celebrate the first 1,000 days of a global movement to make nutrition a key development goal. To update everyone on where our “Sustaining Political Commitments” event sits in “nutrition history,” we’ve put together an interactive timeline (above) that highlights some of the biggest moments since 2008. Use the side arrows to click through the slide-view, or click the "timeline" tab on the top left corner for a more linear perspective. Click on each event for videos, images, links, and a detailed description.

A lot has happened since September 2010, when developing countries founded the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement and donors—led by the United States, Ireland, and the United Nations—launched the 1,000 Days call to action to support it. What started as the recommendations of a scholarly series in a British medical journal has morphed into a global partnership. To date, 35 countries 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 can inflict on whole generations—and conversely, the tremendous return on national investment in preventing this damage.

The 2013 Hunger Report is chock-full of stories on maternal and child nutrition, stunting, the 1,000 Day 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 regarding nutrition in the first 1,000 days. Derek Schwabe

New OECD Income, Poverty, Inequality Data Released

Good news for data nerds: The OECD has just released its latest disposable income, poverty and inequality numbers for all of its 34 member states. You can access the entire data set here, but don't miss the the fun interacive tools that were released along with it. OECD was kind enought to make them embeddable:


So what are the key stories in this beautifully arranged chart? You may not find them all that surprising:

  • Poverty and  inequality have grown in OECD countries since the global recession of 2007-2008.
  • The United States still has greater-than-average inequality and relative poverty than the typical OECD country.
  • The United States has less pre-tax/transfer poverty than most other countries.
  • The overall OECD unemployment rate has eased slightly to 8.0%.
  • Iceland, Slovenia, Norway and Denmark shared the lowest poverty rate of member countries, while Israel bore the highest at 21%.

This data release is well timed, just before the 39th G-8 summit to be held in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland between June 17-18. As member states gather to focus on shared global development goals like advancing trade, ensuring tax compliance, and promoting greater transparency, the OECD offers a humbling reminder that poverty, hunger, and inequality are on the rise across the developed world. A global committment to solving the poverty problem will require committment from all countries, regardless of income level. This is still everyone's problem. Derek Schwabe

Promoting The Right to Know

Hunger Report Monday
Right to know

Participants from across the world attend the Sunlight Foundation’s third annual Transparency Camp in Washington, DC. (Photo credit: Nicko Margolies)

Developed and developing, north and south, rich and poor—these are some of the dichotomous terms we use to categorize a country's quality of life. Does any country, or any person, fit neatly into one category or another?

Increasingly, though, people are finding that development is more a continuum than an all-or-nothing condition, an up or down vote. Every country whether it’s been labeled “developed” or not, falls somewhere along that continuum. The 2013 Hunger Report acknowledged this point in its recommendation for continued universal ownership of goals after the expiration of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in 2015. All countries face the same threats to their development to varying degrees.

The momentum behind this more inclusive way of looking at development and quality of life has been helped along by new concepts and tools. The old standards such as gross domestic product (GDP) or income per capita offer limited insight. Indices such as the Human Development Index (HDI) and the Multi-dimensional Poverty Index (MPI) point out the need for a more diverse set of indicators to complete the development picture, expanding it to include less obvious but equally important measurements like access to education, gender equality and greenhouse gas emissions.

Transparency is one of the more recent additions to the expanding development concept. It has only been a major priority of U.S. foreign assistance for a relatively short time. The Millennium Challenge Corporation only made “fighting corruption” an absolute requirement for funding recipients in 2002. 


Short clip explains how Transparency International guages corruption and why it matters.

More recently, the push for open government has gained rapid momentum as citizens across the world discover promising new ways to track their leaders’ actions, their use of public resources, their campaign contributors, their vested interests in legislation, and more.

Organizations such as Transparency International and the Sunlight Foundation are leading a growing grassroots movement to open government data to public scrutiny. They’re ranking countries by degree of corruption, tracking political ad spending, and crowdsourcing to fill in missing information gaps. Perhaps most important, they’re collaborating internationally as they never have before. For example, Sunlight recently held its first Transparency Camp International, where members of civil society and government employees from 25 countries (of all income and “development” levels) gathered to join the global open government network and absorb the experiences and solutions of others.

The 2013 Hunger Report, Within Reach: Global Development Goals, links open government and transparency to the end goal: good governance. “Improving governance is essential to progress on development,” it explains. “The corrosive effects of government corruption are just one example of how governance problems undermine progress. Good governance, on the other hand, is an enabling condition and a prerequisite to lasting change. Good governance includes many elements, but the most relevant for reducing poverty have to do with creating space for a strong civil society that can hold governments accountable for making progress; building effective institutions to manage and deliver public services; and respecting the rule of law—for example, by protecting the rights of minorities and ensuring that people have recourse to redress for injustices.”

“Most of the work to put these elements in place must be done by national governments and by civil society in developing countries. What the United States and other countries can do as a partner is set high expectations for levels of accountability and transparency. Additionally, they can provide technical know-how, strengthen global institutions that foster good governance, and support leaders who want to govern well. The United States itself must be an example of good governance and continue to work towards becoming more transparent and accountable.”

For more on the importance of transparency in the fight to end hunger, visit Derek Schwabe

Senator Coons Does it Again

On February 11, Senator Christopher Coons (D-DE) treated his constituents yet again to his annual Opportunity: Africa Conference. The half-day conference looked at how Delaware’s businesses, faith communities, and individuals can engage in Africa amid the opportunities and challenges on the continent. The residents of Delaware had the opportunity to interract with some of the nation’s leading voices on sustainable development issues- food security and nutrition, child health and trade in Africa.

Africa today offers the promise for a return on investments. During the previous decade (2001-2010), six of the world’s 10 fastest-growing economies were in Africa. The continent has shown consistent growth, a trend that is expected to continue. A number of factors account for this growth, including technological innovations, political stability, trade, and investment. Robust growth rates, a new commitment to health and agriculture, and significant advances in science and technology are creating new investment opportunities. The United States has played a role in this progress. Senator Coons reminded participants that through life-changing assistance programs such as the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), for example, HIV/AIDS infections have significantly declined in Africa. 

But challenges remain. Today, half the population in sub-Saharan Africa (an estimated 400 million people) live on less than $1.25 a day. We know that the main driver of poverty reduction in the world is the hard work of poor people themselves. Given the opportunity to improve their communities and provide a better life for their children, they seize it. It is this recognition that makes Senator Coons a champion for foreign assistance. As Chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on African Affairs, Coons echoes President Obama’s view that a strong foreign policy rooted in American values must aim to promote democracy and freedom, protect human rights, defend U.S. interests abroad, while also increasing U.S. investment and trade through mutual partnerships. He stresed that today more than ever, development assistance is critical in reducing poverty and bringing greater stability to our interconnected world.

Sen. Coons addresses participants at the conference - Photo by Bread for the World

This conference gave Bread for the World the opportunity to remind participants that moving the aid effectiveness agenda to achieve the MDGs is a complex task, but a necessary one. While more work lies ahead, efforts to achieve the MDGs have already saved lives, helped to lift millions of people out of poverty, and ensured that more children attend school. By investing in local capacity and building strong institutions and infrastructure, U.S. development assistance can help promote good governance, stability, and prosperity. Even as difficult fiscal choices are before Congress, Bread for the World maintains that U.S decision makers should lead the way by protecting and speaking out for investments that build resilience in communities. Making resources available through well-planned programs such as Feed the Future will enable African countries to develop their agricultural infrastructure in sustainable ways and diversify their economies. The 1,000 Days initiative takes advantage of a unique window of opportunity – the 1,000 days between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday – to create a healthier future for an entire generation. This is because the right nutrition during this period is critical to a child’s ability to grow, learn, and ultimately rise out of poverty.

In his keynote address, Kenyan Ambassador to the U.S, His Excellency Elkanah Odembo also urged that U.S. leadership and commitment to Africa’s development are necessary and that the recent gains on the continent be supported and sustained. The Ambassador stressed that at a time of intense debate over budget cuts, it is helpful to remember that not only do investments save lives, improve livelihoods and promote stability- they also save money in the long run and create markets for local communities as well as strong trading partners for the U.S market. Partnering for development, he noted-  would help to identify common ground between different actors and to combine their skills, resources and expertise and engage in win–win relationships around development objectives such as food security, poverty reduction, health, education and access to opportunities.

 Sustaining this commitment and others like it, is what will create the future we want for all—a future grounded in prosperity, dignity and mutual respect.


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