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Voices of the Hungry, a major advance in measuring food insecurity - FAO statistics chief


Voices of the Hungry, the Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO) new tool for monitoring food insecurity, has been described as an “important advancement” in breaking down hunger after being showcased at the 45th session of the UN Statistical in New York in March.  

In an interview with UN radio, Pietro Gennari, FAO’s chief statistician, said Voices of the Hungry could measure hunger and food insecurity more quickly and accurately, be used in both developed and developing countries and provide data on individuals as well as households.

The project, a collaboration with the Gallup World Poll, was piloted in several countries last year, and is now being rolled out in over 150 countries worldwide. First results at global, regional and country level are expected in early 2015.

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

“With this tool we can do that for the first time and this is an important advancement.”

Voices of the Hungry could also play a role in the post-2015 development agenda. In its report to the United Nations Secretary-General last year, the High-level Panel of Eminent Persons called for a “data revolution” to more accurately measure development targets such as poverty and hunger.     

The tool is based on a short and simple questionnaire that gathers information on the experience of individuals to food insecurity each year.

“Since this is done through a very quick survey, results are available only a few months after the data has been collected so that policy interventions can be designed,” he added. “The 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.”