FAO Liaison Office in New York
reviewed & published
The Measure of Hunger
Voices of Hunger - a new metric system to measure hunger and food insecurity

A new metric system for monitoring hunger and food insecurity was recently presented by FAO at the UN Statistical Commission in New York earlier this month. A packed audience of member countries and UN system representatives as well as delegates from interested organizations such as the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation was told by Pietro Gennari, Director, ESS that FAO is using a new metric system to measure hunger and food insecurity in a more timely and accurate way.



“The system has been tested on the ground in several countries last year and is now being rolled out in over 150 countries worldwide”, said Pietro Gennari during a radio interview in New York and at various events throughout the Commission’s session, “thanks to collaboration with the Gallup World Poll, the new survey will be implemented on a global scale in 2014 and at beginning of 2015, FAO will be in a position to release the first results at global, regional and country level.”



The new metric is based on a short and simple questionnaire that gathers information on the extent and severity of hunger from food-insecure people through an annual survey. One of its key features is that it can be used in both developed and developing countries. The mammoth task ahead is to adapt the questionnaire to local languages and specific cultures to ensure that the results are meaningful and are relevant in the context of each country and, at the same time, comparable at the international level. The survey aims to identify which groups of the population have problems in accessing food and where they are located in order to design policies to address these problems.



While there are many indicators of food insecurity nowadays, most of them are partial, not timely and they cannot guide quick policy intervention and response. Mostly these indicators are at a household level: they tend to target the family, rather than individuals, so it is difficult to assess, for example, the different food insecurity situations of men, women and children.



The new tool can also be used for quick assessment after a famine, crisis or a natural disaster or any other event that is likely to have a big impact on people’s access to food. It can also be included in an assessment survey conducted on a national scale, or even in certain areas of the country, in order to compare the “ex-post” to the “ex-ante” situation and clearly define what interventions should be carried out. Similarly, the tool can be used for impact evaluation of programs and policies.



FAO’s Voices of the Hungry (VoH) innovative initiative is currently funded by Dfid and the Government of Belgium, and is actively looking for additional funding to cover its data collection activities until 2018. It is also seeking partnerships and collaborations with experts worldwide to assist with analysis as well as with cultural and linguistic adaptation.



This initiative also aims to establish a new global standard for measuring food insecurity, the Food Insecurity Experience Scale (FIES) which has been endorsed at an international level and is used for global and country monitoring. ESS maintains that that the FIES can become one of the key indicators of the new monitoring framework of the Post 2015 Development Agenda. The FIES has been included as a module in the 2014 round of Gallup World Poll (GWP), a worldwide survey of nationally representative samples of the adult population which is conducted annually in over 150 countries. The current FAO plan is to collect data through the GWP for the next five years and estimate and report on the prevalence of people experiencing severe food insecurity for all developing countries in the world on an annual basis.



"This innovative method will be an essential tool for governments, civil society and other national and international organizations in the fight against hunger", commented Jomo Sundaram, ADG ES.

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