Which rich countries are good/bad on hunger and nutrition? A new index takes aim at the donors.


A few weeks ago, I wrote about the new Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index of developing countries. Yesterday, IDS published a second HANCI for the donor countries. The Index assesses governments on both their promises and performance, strokes the good guys and slaps the bad, provides arguments and data for civil society and scrutinizes aid levels.

Some of the things I liked: it combines the aid agenda with what countries do closer to home (domestic action on climate change, biofuels, and farm policies – but not, as far as I can tell, action to curb land grabs); it looks at both stated policies and how much cash governments spend.

It tackles hunger and nutrition separately, because ‘Undernutrition is not only a consequence of hunger, but can also exist in the absence of hunger, and can be caused by non-food factors. Undernutrition results from both a critical lack of nutrients in people’s diets and a weakened immune system. In a vicious cycle, poor nutritional intake can make people more susceptible to infectious diseases whilst exposure to disease can lower people’s appetite and nutrient absorption. Undernutrition in the first 1000 days of a child’s life (from conception until the age of two) has lifelong and largely irreversible impacts because it impairs a child’s physical and mental development.’

So (tadaa!) here’s the index (apologies for the slightly OTT infographic). 


And yep, the UK comes top, largely due to its policy, programmes and legal indicators – spending is more patchy. This is potentially a bit tricky for IDS, as DFID funded the research, along with Irish Aid (Ireland came 5th/23), but the report tries not to gush too much, and has plenty of caveats about where these countries could do better (and acknowledges the funding up front).

Other things to note – Canada comes second because, among other things, of ‘delivering on its greenhouse gas emissions pledges’. But if my recent visit to Canada was anything to go by, it looks about to plummet down the table, as the Harper government takes a bludgeon to the aid system and reneges on climate change commitments.

The US comes in a pretty pitiful 18/23, mainly due to its relatively low spending on hunger reduction and nutrition programmes in relation to its GDP. It is also less likely than many other OECD countries to sign up to international treaties and frameworks.

The value of the index will really grow in future years, as a time series develops and allows NGOs and others to praise progress and denounce backsliders (looking at you, Ottawa). Let’s hope governments are listening.

Here’s the 3m video intro:

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4 Responses to “Which rich countries are good/bad on hunger and nutrition? A new index takes aim at the donors.”
  1. Good to see these data,thanks, very interesting. And not surprising that certain donors do much better on Hunger than Nutrition, and others viceversa. The two seem still 2 different worlds, but governments’ and donors’ actions on hunger and nutrition should be complementary, coherent and coordinated ! Hopefully the CAADP (and donor alignment to it) in each African country can improve those linkages, though so far “and Nutrition” seems only a textual addition between the 2 words “Food-Security” (one of the current fashions in development debates). This lack of nutrition considerations in CAADP applies both to African governments and donors, as an upcoming study by ECDPM shows. There, we’ll try to also assess the role of public-private-partnerships for nutrition, as some companies indicate that, in Africa, ODA should promote PPPs for food fortification,etc, still too risky a business to be based purely on commercial interests.

  2. Chris

    I´m usually a big fan of IDS´ work – but I´ve been seriously unimpressed by the “HANCI”.
    First, they cite Guatemala as leading the front amongst developing countries against hunger and malnutrition despite its atrocious record of land grabs and on promoting the interests of transnational agri-corporations over smallholder farmers. I´ve been working in Guatemala for the last 18 months, and I can say with confidence that if you showed these results to just about any civil society organization in the country they would laugh you out the room….

    Now they´re citing the UK as the leading donor country for hunger and malnutrition, despite the fact that it has pledged £395 million in UK taxpayers’ money to the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, which has been rejected across African civil society as a means to expand the control of global agribusinesses over African agriculture and natural resources (http://www.acbio.org.za/activist/index.php?m=u&f=dsp&petitionID=3). And that´s not taking into account the UK´s continued support to agribusiness in Africa and how this is fuelling problems for smallholder farmers in the region (http://www.waronwant.org/attachments/The%20Hunger%20Games%202012.pdf).

    It´s good that they are highlighting issues related to resource allocation for hunger and malnutrition, but I´d really thought we´d moved beyond the premise that just throwing money at problems, whilst ignoring (or in this case actually worsening) the structural issues that perpetuate them, is going to do much. I honestly expected more from IDS, it´s usually a much more forward thinking institution….

  3. Eamonn Casey

    Interesting data and analysis. It will also be interesting to see if ‘development assistance’ currently being viewed as supportive of hunger and nutrition goals is seen like that over the long term, as land, seed and water resources are privatised, and policy- and decision-making about food sovereignty and even food security are privatised (or part-privatised) and deregulated through the new green revolution schemes, Nutrition for Growth, AGRA, etc.

  4. Julie Swanger

    I recently spent time in Peru doing research in person and online. Peru has had a major ignorance towards its people living in outlying regions struggling with extreme malnutrition resulting in diseases like anemia. Some main staples in Peru include potatoes, rice, quinoa, and corn. This results in a very carbohydrate heavy diet lacking in iron and vitamins leading to anemia. The government has made major strides in providing feeding centers in rural areas, but the issue is the food being served is no better than the original diet, and nothing is taught to the women coming for hand outs. If the government is going to hand out free meals they should at least encourage the five food groups both in teaching and what they serve. My main intentions in Peru are to provide the people with information about the five food groups and how they can and should incorporate them into their everyday diet. I am currently working on educating the mothers on the five food groups that should be present on their plate at all time through preparing tools like posters of plates divided into portions and food cards that they must place in the proper categories.