Commitment in SDGs and amongst national politicians to tackle malnutrition underwhelming

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) have been agreed, however, the current focus on nutrition is insufficient. The new Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index (HANCI) launched today, shows that government commitment to addressing hunger is rarely the same as their commitment to addressing malnutrition. If the global community is going to achieve the SDGs it needs to take action that goes well beyond tackling hunger and pursue efforts targeting malnutrition.

The latest findings from the Institute of Development Studies’ (IDS) HANCI show that worryingly, many countries where more than 40 per cent of children under 5 are undernourished, show low to very low levels of political commitment, for instance, Cambodia and Pakistan. Globally, levels of hunger and undernutrition remain unacceptably high, with one in nine people in the world suffering from chronic hunger and undernutrition as the cause of 3 million deaths of children.

What were the top findings of HANCI?
Peru has overtaken Guatemala and tops the rankings and is in fact making a clear effort in the fight against hunger and undernutrition. Many of the top ranked countries in HANCI continue to make significant progress. In Peru, more of the population have access to safe drinking water and sanitation, and more births are attended by skilled health professionals. However, the benefits are not yet adequately reaching the poorest communities of the country, where extremely high stunting rates prevail.

India has climbed in the HANCI rankings, through strengthening access to sanitation; secure access to land; civil registration and increased public spending on health (albeit after a year in which budgets were severely cut). But India still has a long way to go. It will be important to see if India’s government elected in 2014 can lock in sustained and accelerated political commitment, to further drive down undernutrition and hunger.

Despite making slight improvements, the countries that were at the bottom last year have stayed there. The pace of change for Guinea Bissau, Angola and Sudan is too slow to allow them to catch up with other high burden countries. As a consequence, these countries are increasingly getting left behind other countries that making progress.

How can HANCI support the SDGs?
The Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index (HANCI) 2014 measures political commitment to tackling hunger and undernutrition in 45 developing countries. It is an index comprising developing countries which have high levels of hunger and/or undernutrition. The index shows levels of political commitment to tackle hunger and undernutrition by comparing relative efforts in terms of policies, laws and public spending.

Lead HANCI researcher at IDS, Dr Dolf te Lintelo said: “There is now growing international understanding that action towards tackling hunger needs to be complemented with additional, separate efforts to addressing undernutrition. The SDGs emphasise hunger, and there is a suggestion that nutrition will follow on the back of this. This is a risky assumption as political commitment to hunger is often at a different level than commitment addressing malnutrition. SDGs hence need to support and monitor countries’ hunger and nutrition statuses, but also the distinct efforts made to address hunger and malnutrition”.

As the outcomes of the SDGs will take time to materialise, HANCI offers a rigorous approach for monitoring government commitment towards achieving these goals. It investigates government efforts in terms of public spending, law, and policies and can apply this across sectors from agriculture, nutrition, social protection and health.

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