Benefits and Costs of the Food and Nutrition Targets for the Post-2015 Development Agenda
The Copenhagen Consensus Center, one of the world’s leading development think tanks, published the Food Security and Nutrition Perspective Paper in November 2014 about the benefits and costs of food and nutrition targets in the post-2015 development agenda. The paper addresses the evolution of nutrition goals from the MDGs to the SDGs and provides a brief analysis anticipated cost-benefits such as the economic advantages of nutrition interventions. For example, stunting causes generational economic disadvantage and loss. Hence nutrition interventions targeted to curb stunting have tremendous economic value. Hoddinott et al 2013 was referenced in the paper for providing the ratio that for every $97.11 invested per child in Bangladesh for nutrition, there is a future economic advantage worth $1,735 with a 5% discount rate. That is a cost-benefit ratio of 1:17.9.
Stunting is also a better measure of nutrition than the label of “underweight,” which was used as the main indicator in the MDGs. Stunting measures a long-run nutritional status rather than a current status. The following illustration explains the significant impact of using stunting as an indicator for undernourishment.
‘Imagine a child who is born and grows up in early childhood consuming a diet largely consisting of starchy staples, and whose mother faced the same diet during her pregnancy. Such a diet is devoid of the variety of foods needed to provide the minerals and vitamins required for healthy growth. This child is likely to end up stunted by age two (short for his/her age), after which catch-up in height is more difficult….The MDG goal (halving underweight) will incorrectly categorize this child as of normal weight, whereas the proposed SDG goal (stunting) will correctly categorize this child as suffering from long-run undernutrition.’
The inclusion of WHO’s nutritional goals in the SDGs strengthens the focus towards stunting and long-term nutritional solutions. However, rather than just adopting WHO’s reduction of stunting by 40% in 2025 and dragging it to 2030, the paper recommends adjustment and increasing the number of targets according to the additional time length. It also recommends that data on stunting be complemented with additional information on wasting in countries facing short-term crises and overweight/obesity in all countries.
The Hunger Project has been advocating for a nutrition focused food security strategies for a long time. The health and nutrition centers in our epicenters have been working to establish behavioral change among mothers towards nutrition as part of the neonatal and prenatal care services. The Hunger Project is thrilled about the significant progress made within the international development sector to move nutrition to the forefront of the global food security agenda.
Announcing the 2014 Global Hunger Index
The 2014 Global Hunger Index, now available from the International Food Policy Research Institute, Welthungerhilfe, and Concern Worldwide, shows a steady decrease in hunger in most developing countries.While great strides have been made to feed the world, hunger persists: some 805 million people go hungry every day because they don’t get enough to eat, and even those who eat enough calories can still suffer from “hidden hunger”– deficiencies in micronutrients that are often harder to detect but devastating in their impact.
Levels of hunger are still “alarming” in 14 countries, and “extremely alarming” in Burundi and Eritrea. In addition, a staggering 2 billion people globally suffer from “hidden hunger,” or micronutrient deficiency. Hidden hunger holds countries back in a cycle of poor nutrition, poor health, lost productivity, poverty, and reduced economic growth.
Sustainably tackling hidden hunger requires multisectoral action on all levels and a post-2015 framework that includes a universal goal to end hunger and malnutrition in all its forms and clear mechanisms to ensure accountability. Alongside the multi-sectoral coordination, the report acknowledges the importance of “behavioral change communication … to educate people about health services, sanitation and hygiene, and caring practices, as well as the need for greater empowerment of women at all levels.”
Currently 805 million people are suffering from hunger globally, malnutrition being the main cause of mortality in children under five. Inarguably, hunger and malnutrition have been the major obstacles for progress in the developing world. The Feed the Future Initiative aims to end hunger by 2030 by increasing agricultural productivity and creating opportunities for economic growth and trade in developing countries. The initiative also aims to boost harvest and income of rural smallholder farmers, and improve agricultural research while giving more access to more people to existing technologies. Lastly, it will work to increase resilience to prevent recurrent environmental crises and help communities better cope.
The Hunger Project, as an active member of the Food Security and Agriculture Working Group at Interaction, is excited by the legislation garnering bipartisan support. We acknowledge that it is not only an indication of a unified global fight against hunger, but also the prioritization of assistance to small-scale farmers, especially women.
The bills are expected to go to the floor for possibly ratification when Congress returns from recess after the November midterm election. The Hunger Project expects that bipartisan support will continue throughout the deliberation process.