On the 14th October 2013, the latest Global Hunger Index report was launched. Produced by the International Food Policy Research Institute, Welhungerhilfe and Concern Worldwide, this annual report details the progress the world has made in tackling hunger. The index itself is “a multidimensional measure of national, regional, and global hunger” that combines measures of child underweight, child mortality and undernourishment (discussed in chapter 2 of One Billion Hungry). This year’s figures reflect hunger during the period 2008-2012 and show global hunger has fallen by a third since 1990.
While the world has made some progress in reducing hunger since 1990, we still have far to go. Global hunger remains “serious,” and 19 countries suffer from levels of hunger that are either “alarming” or “extremely alarming.” 23 countries, however, have reduced their GHI scores by 50% or more. The top ten so-called success countries in terms of improvements in GHI scores since 1990 were Angola, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Malawi, Niger, Rwanda, Thailand, and Vietnam.
Sub-saharan Africa has one of the highest GHIs per region along with South Asia but since 2000, an increase in political stability and the achievements made in tackling HIV/AIDS, malaria and childhood diseases have seen SSA starting to make considerable progress towards reducing hunger.
There are a number of big data reports that come out annually around this time of year not least the Global Hunger Index and the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation’s State of Food Insecurity in the World. The merit of these analyses lie in tracking progress and raising awareness but their data cannot be taken as a true reflection of what’s happening on the ground, merely an indicator of the global situation. That is not to say that there isn’t value in such data. McKinsey states that so-called big data has been exploding in recent years and highlights its use in uncovering emerging trends and future issues. Indicators such as the GHI have the power to inform if delivered at the levels at which key decisions are made but also potentially predict how hunger and its causes might change in the future.
This year the Global Hunger Index report talks about one key area that looks set to become more important as we continue to face growing global threats such as climate change and that is resilience. The report outlines how we must coordinate activities across the development and international aid sectors to help the most vulnerable better prepare and adapt to oncoming shocks and crises.
At the London launch of the report on the 14th October at the Houses of Parliament, speakers Lynne Featherstone, UK Department for International Development Minister responsible for Food Security; Lawrence Haddad, Director of the Institute for Development Studies; Dominic MacSorley, CEO of Concern Worldwide and Victor Odero, human rights and advocacy programme manager at Concern Worldwide Kenya, as well as chairs Tom Levitt, Chair of the Concern Worldwide Board and Rose Caldwell, Executive Director at Concern Worldwide UK, came together to discuss the report. In light of Baroness Valerie Amos’ (under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator) recent statement that £1 spent on preventing crises saves £7 on emergency aid, the report’s focus on resilience is timely.
The poorest performing countries, in terms of reducing GHI scores, are often fragile states and, as Lawrence Haddad stated, broad-based economic growth and long-term political commitment have played a role in those countries that have made significant progress. He also commented on the need for resilience to be focused on the needs of the poor.
DFID are responding to this by mainstreaming resilience across all their programmes and have invested a further £140 million in the Building Resilience and Adaptation to Climate Extremes and Disasters (BRACED) programme. Concern Worldwide are incorporating resilience into many of their programmes such as in the Moyale community in Kenya where community-led plans have been extremely effective in building resilience. As the report acknowledges, turning these local level successes into policy change is the next key step.
The report sets out a number of recommendations for the future including the need for surveillance systems in vulnerable areas, a focus on community as well as individual and household resilience and the need for resilience to become integrated into national and regional development strategies that consider resilience and growth together. While the Global Hunger Index report translates big data into advocacy, we now need to go a step further in translating this to action.