The MDG nutrition target has been necessary but not sufficient to accelerate progress on undernutrition. Until 2008 nutrition was relatively neglected and until then the MDG target did not help to galvanise international commitment on undernutrition. However, when the political landscape changed with the first food price crisis, and with a new body of evidence on what works in nutrition, the MDG helped legitimise a growth in interest in nutrition. Now a substantial global commitment to tackle undernutrition – 28 countries have in the last 2 years, signed up to the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement. This effort is being strongly supported by a number of development partners and the UN system. This may not have been possible if there was no nutrition MDG target.
The nutrition indicator is quite invisible within MDG 1 – it is frequently not reported in progress reports on MDG1. It also provides a story which is not consistent with progress against the number of undernourished (the other hunger indicator). This lack of clarity has arguably hindered progress. Having said this, it is probably better overall that the nutrition indicator was with MDG1, rather than MDG4 as it has helped to keep nutrition out of the exclusive domain of health.
On the inconsistency between the under-five nutrition and the general population undernourishment targets, there is need to improve understanding to better fight hunger sustainably. Currently there is a largely unnoticed phenomenon that morbidity and mortality among young children has effectively decreased, but the level of undernourishment in the general population has remained unchanged, with hunger-related morbidity actually increasing. There are indications that the undernourishment figure across age groups may even be increasing. This requires urgent attention, not just because of the risk to individual people’s life-cycle trajectories. but also because this undermines growth and poses a threat to the economic development of countries.
Overall, MDG1c has led to significant attention and motivation to act on hunger.
1) It is unlikely that the MDG 1c will be met, in spite of the fact that it is the MDG with the “multiplier effect” because it is also essential to MDGs 2-7 being met. About one billion people (1 out of 7 globally) are still estimated to lack access to adequate food and nutrition, and another billion suffer from micro nutrient deficiencies, the majority women and girls. While there are proportionately fewer malnourished people in the world than there used to be, the absolute number may even be rising. Stunting rates are sticky.
Most of the countries which are not on track to meet the hunger MDG are in SSA, followed by South Asia. Absolute numbers of hungry people are higher in South Asia, but hunger is more acute in SSA. This may also be the trend for the future: All countries not on track are vulnerable to climate change and other shocks. Many of them, in particular in SSA, are in protracted crisis, where the proportion of undernourished people is three times as high as in other developing countries.
(2) Climate change, changing land use practices, commodity price stresses and shocks, population increase, the continued volatility of food prices at high level, and disasters are likely to increase the already high base load of chronically malnourished (stunted) and frequently acutely food insecure people.
The number of people who are vulnerable to increasing and repeated shocks or who are in crisis (including protracted crises) is rising, and resilience-strengthening efforts do not (yet?) have sufficient coverage to counter this trend fast enough to keep the downward livelihoods spiral from accelerating.
(3) Even in countries that are making good progress, a significant baseload remains sticky. These are primarily the extremely poor which are already bypassed by a lot of the progress. Given also their increased vulnerability to stresses and shocks and the fact that some programmes may harm them, this gap is likely to widen (growing inequality within countries).
In thinking about the post-MDG period, it would be good to consider the following issues, in addition to what MDG1c has already covered well:
(i) Prevention: Building food security resilience to prevent large increases in acute food insecurity during crises and shocks – define resilient food security as a target indicator
(ii) Do more to reduce sticky stunting rates – eg through better agric for nutrition outcomes programming, social protection for the poorest and most vulnerable
(iii) More balanced reduction of hunger and malnutrition across regions – more focus on high burden regions and countries
(iv) More balanced reduction of hunger and malnutrition in-country – make sure that programmes and resulting progress do not bypass or even harm the very and extremely poor
Our current best internal discussion proposal is based on the UNSG’s zero hunger challenge and comprises the following:
Post 2015 Candidate goal: Getting to zero poverty and hunger
Target a: By 2030, all people have long term access to adequate, affordable nutritious food.
Target b: By 2030, 50% reduction in the number of children whose growth is stunted by malnutrition
Target c: By 2030, 20% increase agricultural productivity, driving greater efficiency and sustainability.
Target a Indicators: [Institution holding/developing relevant data set]
Target b Indicators:
Target c Indicators:
And possibly an additional
Target d: By 2030, all countries have built food systems resilient enough to stresses and shocks, to avoid these resulting in increased poverty.
Target d Indicators:
This thematic discussion was led by FAO and WFP in collaboration with “The World We Want”.
The consultation was facilitated by the Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)