Developing strategies to end hunger
 

24 posts categorized "Millennium Challenge Account"

"If she did not fight ... it would have been another story"

In sub-Saharan Africa, a girl with hopes for more than a primary education is unlikely to realize them. For rural girls, the odds are even worse. In a region where a minority of all school children—regardless of gender—even complete lower secondary school (ninth grade), parents must fight to give their daughters an equal chance. This was the experience of Fouzia Dahir, a Kenyan Somali woman whose mother personally shielded her from the social and physical forces that threatened to knock her off the path to a college degree. Fouzia’s story is featured in the 2015 Hunger Report video, just released this week and posted above.

Not only are women and girls the majority of the world’s hungry people, but they are the chief agents the world relies on to help end hunger. Evidence shows that gender discrimination causes hunger, but it also shows that removing gender discrimination leads to benefits that reach every level of society. When women are empowered, families, communities, and even economies are healthier and wealthier. Fouzia’s life and work illuminate this truth. She is the founder of the Northern Organization for Social Empowerment, a non-profit organization in Kenya that advocates for equal opportunities for rural women and girls and equips them to seize those opportunities.

Fouzia’s organization takes direct aim at the largest, most obstinate barriers that stand between rural girls and an education. The most threatening of these is deep poverty, which forces many parents to pull their children out of school to work—simply because the family’s survival depends on it. Scarce economic opportunity and the poverty that results from it exacerbate gender inequality by driving families to make difficult choices about which child gets to go to school. Fouzia’s organization trains rural women to be more productive farmers and connects them to markets so they can earn enough income to send all of their children to school and keep them there.

Social norms pose another pervasive, if invisible, threat to women’s empowerment. Fouzia’s community is no exception. Families who embrace modern education often still hesitate to educate their girls, convinced that their rightful place is in the kitchen. Early marriage is commonplace and virtually always means an end to the child bride’s education. Even girls who manage to evade an early marriage face the next challenge of balancing school and studying with an oppressive burden of domestic work that they alone are expected to shoulder. They must walk miles each way to fetch water, gather firewood, and also do the household cleaning, leaving little or no time for homework. Many eventually drop out of school. This is why Fouzia’s organization works to start conversations among families and between families and schools that encourage a more equitable sharing of household work within the family.

Fouzia is a catalyzing force in her community who is generating very real economic and social returns and making lasting improvements. This would not be possible but for the uncompromising insistence of her mother, herself illiterate, that Fouzia stay in school. Fouzia sees potential similar to her own lost in every young girl denied an education.

You can read Fouzia’s story in her own words and learn more about the importance of education to women’s empowerment by reading the 2015 Hunger Report, When Women Flourish …We Can End Hunger

Derek Schwabe

Celebrating the Tenure of USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah

Raj Shah

Dr. Rajiv Shah welcomes guests to the launch of Bread for the World Institute's 2011 Hunger Report in November, 2010. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)


Dr. Rajiv Shah will be departing USAID (the U.S. Agency for International Development) this week. His appointment as USAID Administrator came in the wake of Haiti’s devastating earthquake in early 2010, just as famine was hitting South Sudan and at a time of continued powerful aftershocks from the global food price crisis. USAID sets and implements the U.S. government’s development and emergency food aid policies, and its employees staff U.S. Missions in countries around the world where hunger and poverty are endemic. In addition to managing a series of crises, Dr. Shah also set out to revitalize an agency that had long been criticized for being overly bureaucratic and dependent on large U.S. implementing partner organizations to carry out many of its programs.

We will remember Dr. Shah’s time at USAID for his passionate commitment to and impatience in the fight to end hunger and malnutrition. In five years, remarkable progress has been made against food insecurity and malnutrition, and U.S. leadership has played an important role. In 2010, Dr. Shah created the Bureau for Food Security at USAID to implement Feed the Future, the U.S. global food security initiative. Under his leadership, USAID also developed the first-ever Multisectoral Global Nutrition Strategy, which will improve coordination across the agency’s bureaus and programs and, most importantly, the effectiveness of U.S. investments in nutrition. 

In addition, President Obama and Administrator Shah have been relentless advocates at the global level for greater and smarter investments in agriculture, food security, and nutrition. They secured new commitments of resources from other countries, multilateral institutions, and the private sector. Dr. Shah served on the Lead Group of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, helping to provide strategic direction as SUN was getting off the ground. At the country level, USAID has been a key SUN partner. Today, SUN, whose members at last count are 54 countries with high rates of childhood stunting, has begun to change national policies and commit funding to fight malnutrition.

We also remember Dr. Shah’s time at USAID for increasing attention to strengthening local capacity and institutions, including recognizing the key role of local civil society. David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World, is a member of USAID’s Advisory Committee on Voluntary Foreign Aid, designed to give policy guidance directly to the Administrator, and was honored to participate in an ACVFA working group that developed a paper on local capacity development. Beckmann later co-chaired the ACVFA task force on strengthening Feed the Future’s collaborations with civil society. Reflecting on Shah’s tenure, Beckmann said, “I thank God for Raj Shah’s outstanding leadership. USAID’s increased effectiveness is making a difference in the lives of millions of people, and it has set the stage for bipartisan collaboration in the U.S. Congress on international development issues. ”

We were honored by Dr. Shah’s presence at important moments for Bread for the World. At Bread’s 2011 Hunger Report launch, Dr. Shah called the report, Our Common Interest: Ending Hunger and Malnutrition,
“the best statement [he’s] read about the importance of Feed the Future to U.S. efforts to combat global hunger and malnutrition.”  He announced the establishment of the Bureau of Food Security at the launch. Dr. Shah was also the keynote speaker at Bread’s 2012 Gala to End Hunger.

He addressed Bread for the World members, representatives of international civil society, and global nutrition stakeholders at the 2013 Sustaining Political Commitments to Scaling Up Nutrition event in Washington, DC. It was here that he announced USAID’s plan for a Global Nutrition Strategy.

Dr. Shah’s individual accomplishments, and USAID’s accomplishments during his tenure, are too numerous to list. Under his leadership the agency prospered. Bread for the World developed closer working relationships with key management and program staff. He has set the bar very high for his successor and has put in place strategies and programs that assure continued U.S. government leadership in the global fight to end hunger and extreme poverty. We at Bread for the World wish Dr. Shah continued success in all his endeavors and look forward to working with the next USAID Administrator.

Scott Bleggi

The President's Budget a Mixed Bag on Food Security and Nutrition

President Obama released his final budget on Monday, February 2, 2015. As was reported by Bread for the World in a press release, the budget invests in people as a key to sustained economic recovery. It includes increased funding for maternal, newborn and child health, and it prioritizes early childhood care and education.

The budget can be lauded for these important domestic funding initiatives, but it is more of a mixed bag in addressing international food and nutrition security. It requests a $14 million reduction from Fiscal year 2015 enacted funding levels in nutrition spending, which is allocated to USAID’s Global Health Bureau.  This is disappointing given worldwide recognition of nutrition’s role across development sectors, and global momentum to improve nutrition policies and programs, especially those focused in the 1,000 days ‘window of opportunity’ from a women’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday.  Investments here are among the smartest that can be made, with long-term health, social and economic benefits accruing to both individuals and countries themselves.

The International Affairs (150) account in the budget, which funds overseas operations, counterterrorism efforts, humanitarian relief and development assistance is again less than 1% of the total.  At $54.8 billion it does enjoy a small (2.4%) increase over the previous year’s funding but is still many billions below what was spent as recently as the year 2010.

As was reported by the World Food Program, “…humanitarian aid programs were among those that got hit the hardest by budget cuts. Overall humanitarian accounts went down by 13%. International Disaster Assistance was cut by $154 million. Food Aid was cut by $66 million.”  All this during times of historic demand for global assistance. To say that USAID and its implementing partners are stretched thin is an understatement. In fact, according to the Famine Early Warning System web site, there are eight “areas of concern” – Central African Republic, Central America and the Caribbean, Mauritania, Nigeria, Senegal, Sierra Leone, South Sudan and Yemen – that are being watched closely.  Any of these countries or regions can easily slip into food insecurity, requiring additional funding.  Save the Children reported it was “concerned with the funding levels for humanitarian assistance”.

The President’s budget builds on the Administration’s efforts to increase access to early childhood care and education for U.S. children from birth to age five. But at the same time it proposes cuts in disaster assistance, food aid and nutrition, cuts which paradoxically, could have a devastating effect on children from birth to age five overseas in countries where help is most needed.

The President’s budget has been presented to Congress, which will likely now develop a budget of its own.  If the final budget is approved with additional cuts to the 150 Account and any new global humanitarian conflicts arise, a very tight funding scenario could turn disastrous.

The advocacy community will surely be focused with Congress on restoring funding to this critical account.  And surely Congress can find ways to not have the most vulnerable population overseas – women and children - bear a disproportionate amount of cuts in a budget of $4,000,000,000,000.

Scott Bleggi

Moving Forward from the U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit

Last week, President Obama hosted the historic U.S.-Africa Leaders Summit in Washington, DC. The summit, whose theme was Investing in the Next Generation, brought together 50 leaders from across the African continent, members of Africa’s civil society, private sector actors, and various faith communities. The three-day summit, August 4-6, focused on strengthening trade relations between the United States and African nations and opening new economic partnerships that are based on mutual responsibility and mutual respect.

The summit took place in the context of the Obama administration’s deepening engagement with African countries. In June 2012, President Obama released the U.S. Strategy Toward Sub-Saharan Africa, which outlined a comprehensive U.S. policy for the region. This strategy reflects and builds on many of the initiatives launched earlier in Obama’s presidency, such as Feed the Future. In addition, the Strategy supports the integration of existing U.S. government initiatives to boost broad-based economic growth in Africa, including through trade and investment.

SummitPhoto: White House

The African Growth and Opportunity Act (AGOA), signed into law in 2000 by President Clinton, remains the most important piece of legislation that defines trade relationships between the United States and Sub-Saharan Africa. Since the legislation went into effect, the region’s exports have increased by more than 500 percent, from $8.15 billion in 2001 to $53.8 billion in 2011.  AGOA applies to only a small portion of these exports, since during this period, about 95 percent of Africa’s exports outside the continent were oil and gas.

AGOA’s achievements illustrate its great potential to spur economic growth. Agriculture-led growth, which has the greatest impact on poverty, is still urgently needed. The food price crisis of 2007-2008, followed by the worldwide economic downturn, have meant an increase in hunger and malnutrition and continued high poverty rates. An estimated 80 percent of Africa’s hungry and poor people support themselves through agriculture.

AGOA is due for reauthorization in 2015. Bread for the World championed the authorization of AGOA in 2000 and has remained engaged ever since. As Bread for the World President Rev. David Beckmann said during last week’s summit, facilitating regional trade that supports smallholder farmers and local businesses amplifies the efforts of U.S. government-funded programs such as Feed the Future and the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC). U.S. agriculture and trade policy – for example, the structure of import tariffs and an assortment of commodity payments made to U.S. farmers -- has sometimes undermined African countries’ efforts to use agriculture to take the first steps out of poverty. A robust AGOA, however, has the potential to boost the livelihoods of hungry and poor people while allowing them to determine their own development path and invest in the future generations.

During his visit to three African countries in 2013, President Obama announced two new initiatives designed to spur economic growth and investment on the continent. Trade Africa aims to both encourage greater regional integration and increase trade and investment between the United States and sub-Saharan African countries by aligning U.S. assistance with national government and private sector priorities. 

Power Africa, on the other hand, is led by the private sector. The goal of this innovative initiative is to double access to electricity in Africa, where more than 600 million people currently lack access. At the summit, Obama announced a renewed commitment to Power Africa, pledging a new level of $300 million in annual funding to expand the project’s reach. The new goal is to provide 30,000 megawatts in additional electrical capacity, increasing access by at least 60 million households and businesses. The president also announced $6 billion in new private sector commitments, bringing the total private sector investment in Power Africa to more than $20 billion. Some of the additional commitments are part of Beyond the Grid, a new sub-initiative announced at the U.S-Africa Energy Ministerial meeting in June of this year. Beyond the Grid will foster private investment in off-grid and small-scale energy solutions that focus on remote areas.

So far under Power Africa, 12 U.S. government agencies have begun working closely with African governments, both to identify and overcome the key legal, regulatory, and policy constraints to investment and to implement policies that will enable good governance and sustainable growth for Africa’s growing power sector. Early experience shows that carefully targeted capacity building in trade and investment aids efforts to reduce hunger and malnutrition and achieve other critical development initiatives. Significant progress is made possible, for example, by reducing post-harvest losses associated with lack of access to cold storage facilities.

The Africa Leaders Summit highlighted several opportunities for trade and investment to intersect with efforts to end hunger and malnutrition. To make the most of these opportunities, U.S. government initiatives should adopt a coordinated approach that is data-driven, goal-oriented, and strategic, and that builds on the experience of relatively new U.S. foreign assistance programs such as the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR), the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), and Feed the Future.

Faustine Wabwire

“Nutrition for Growth” At One Year: Tracking Global Pledges

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Nutrition and education link in Guatemala school feeding. (Joe Molieri/Bread for the World)

We recently marked the first anniversary of the historic global nutrition event “Nutrition for Growth: Beating Hunger Through Business and Science” (N4G), held in London in conjunction with the 2013 G-8 Summit. Co-hosted by the governments of the U.K. and Brazil and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), the event brought together leaders from business, government, science, academia, and civil society. They made ambitious financial and political commitments to provide better nutrition to women and children in the 1,000 Days “window of opportunity” from pregnancy to age 2; reduce the numbers of stunted children; and help put an end to deaths from severe acute malnutrition. More specifically, they agreed to prevent at least 20 million children from being stunted and to save at least 1.7 million lives by 2020.

How pervasive a problem is malnutrition? The number of people suffering from chronic hunger declined from 868 million in 2012 to 842 million in 2013. According to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization, the number of undernourished children has been reduced by 17 percent in 20 years. Yet undernutrition is still the cause of nearly half of the deaths of children under age 5.

Globally, nearly one in four children younger than 5 is stunted due to chronic micronutrient deficiencies. Stunting is a condition linked to increased susceptibility to common illnesses, lower levels of academic achievement, and lower lifetime earnings, said UNICEF in its recent report, "Improving Child Nutrition: The Achievable Imperative for Global Progress".

Severe acute malnutrition is a life-threatening condition that requires immediate attention. According to the World Health Organization, there is a 30 percent to 50 percent mortality rate for children younger than 5 who develop severe acute malnutrition.

How ambitious were the N4G commitments? Altogether, leaders pledged an historic $4.15 billion to tackle malnutrition via investments in multiple sectors: agriculture; health; water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH); education; and social protection programs. They did so in the realization that nutrition is intertwined with all these sectors -- and that a person who is malnourished in early childhood can never reach her or his full potential.Commitments were made to new partnerships and scaled-up research. An annual Global Report on Nutrition was announced (the “first annual” report will be released in November 2014 at the Second International Conference on Nutrition). An annual global nutrition meeting alongside the UN General Assembly was initiated.  A Global Nutrition for Growth Compact puts nutrition at the center of the world’s development agenda. A group of businesses has pledged to improve the nutrition (and hence the productivity and health) of 927,000 employees in 80 countries. See a complete list of commitments.

A year after N4G, what progress has the United States made? The U.S. government has made nutrition a higher priority in meeting our global development assistance commitments. In a time of almost universal budget cuts, Congress reached a bipartisan agreement to boost funding for nutrition in the FY 2014 federal budget. USAID recently announced a new global multisectoral nutrition strategy. The agency credits the “strong advocacy and dedication” of civil society organizations such as Bread for the World Institute for the release of the strategy, which will “align our important global nutrition commitments.” The USAID strategy will be used to develop a U.S. Government Global Nutrition Coordination Plan, to include USAID, four cabinet-level departments (Agriculture, Health and Human Services, Treasury, State), the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the Peace Corps, and the White House. The plan is designed to accelerate “progress toward relevant WHA targets and other U.S. government commitments by maximizing the impact of government actions.” 

Civil society organizations, including those in the nutrition stakeholder community such as the Institute, are clearly a driving force in getting this high level of U.S. government commitment to nutrition. Legislative and non-legislative advocates are working seamlessly to increase funding for nutrition activities and to shape an effective policy and program operations agenda. USAID operational partners are designing nutrition projects that encompass several sectors of development assistance.

Of course, commitments and action by the governments of countries with high burdens of malnutrition are essential to success. To date, 51 such countries have come together in the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement in order to work -- governments and civil societies together – to expand successful nutrition programs. 

Working together, civil society will monitor the pledges made at N4G to ensure that they are honored. We will help ensure that diverse government nutrition policies and programs come together in the most effective way possible. Malnutrition is a major component of global hunger, so tackling it more effectively will bring us much closer to our very feasible goal, ending global hunger by the year 2030.

In a recent blog post, David Beckmann, president of Bread for the World and Rick Leach, CEO of WFP-US said: “From climate change to civil liberties, the world is at a critical point right now with many issues. Global nutrition is no different, and, as such, deserves adequate attention as its reach is vast and implications deep. Future generations depend on decisions we--governments, NGOs, faith leaders, community leaders, investors, scientists, educators, and others--are making and actions we are taking right now to ensure that they can reach their full potential. Not only can we reduce undernutrition--we must if our children's children are to thrive.”

Scott Bleggi

A Global Day of Action for Nutrition

2013 was an historic year for nutrition advocacy. As part of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, civil society organizations (CSOs) around the world committed to supporting and holding their governments accountable on plans of action to improve nutrition. SUN focuses on pregnant women and children in the “1,000 Days” from pregnancy to age 2, since this is the most critical period for human nutrition. CSOs can range from small groups working in community settings to nationwide alliances that advance common interests. The SUN Civil Society Network (SUN-CSN) was formed to establish and support SUN Civil Society Alliances (SUN-CSA), as well as to facilitate, communicate, and coordinate across the network.

In the lead-up to the 2013 G-8 summit in London and its Nutrition for Growth event, nutrition CSOs coordinated actions as part of a “Global Day of Action”. Their goal was to show global support for decisive actions at the G-8 to tackle food insecurity and malnutrition. CSOs from Bangladesh, Ghana, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia led events in their countries to increase awareness of the need for governments to make greater investments in programs and policies to overcome malnutrition.

This year marks an alignment of several key moments in global nutrition. The 67th meeting of the World Health Assembly takes place the week of May 19-23 in Geneva. This is an opportunity for countries to report on progress in achieving global nutrition targets that were set in 2012. The African Union Summit in June will focus on agriculture, food security, and nutrition. The Second International Conference on Nutrition will be held at the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) in November.

During the week of May 4-11, 2014,  a second “Global Day of Action” was held in many of the SUN-CSA countries. The goal was to influence both national nutrition policies and regional development agendas while also highlighting SUN-CSN as a “global, impactful, and agenda-setting network.”

The Global Day of Action’s objectives were:

  • Advance multi-stakeholder and multi-sectoral efforts to address nutrition as a priority and to scale-up nutrition intervention efforts;
  • Add to continued, growing public pressure on national leaders to continue their focus on nutrition, increase progress toward the 2013 WHA global targets, deliver on commitments to SUN and commitments made at the Nutrition for Growth event;
  • Increase the public and political profile of nutrition in member countries;
  • Highlight SUN-CSN as an effective international campaigning network; and
  • Show an inclusive, global constituency in support of nutrition.

We’ve already seen effective social media and press coverage of Global Day of Action events by SUN-CSAs using the Twitter hashtag of #ActingTogether4Nutrition in Zambia (@wchilufya), Bangladesh (@SUNCSABD), Ghana (@ghaccssun), Malawi (@CSO_Nut.Alliance), and Uganda (@UCCOSUN).

Zambia for blog
Village heads in Zambia participate in the Global Day of Action for nutrition. Photo credit: William Chilufya

 Altogether, 19 country-level CSOs committed to displaying strong public support for nutrition issues.

At the inaugural meeting of SUN-CSN, in June 2013 in Washington, DC, I witnessed a real commitment from advocates from all over the world to share ideas and build a Community of Practice on efforts to scale up nutrition. SUN countries are those with the world’s highest burdens of malnutrition. They are working together with very limited resources in ways that are most impressive. I hope political leaders will take note of their advocacy and live up to their governments’ commitments to meet global nutrition targets by 2015.

Scott Bleggi

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

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