Do hunger and malnutrition make you want to cry? Time to get your HANCI out

April 11, 2013

     By Duncan Green     

Today sees the launch of the Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index (HANCI), produced by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) with fundingHANCI-web-LOGO from Irish Aid and DFID. It looks like it could become one of the more useful annual league tables.

It may not be seen as a progressive view in the UK, but I’m a big league table fan, especially when they’re combined with access to new information. They use political rivalry to motivate politicians, the media love them, they allow good guys to be praised, as well as under-performers to be slapped, and they hand civil society some useful ammunition. The post2015 circus might be well advised to spend more time designing an effective league table, rather than adding yet more issues to its Christmas tree.

HANCI-structure-diagramThe HANCI assesses governments both by intention and action, examining policies and programmes, legal frameworks and public spending in 45 developing countries across 22 indicators (see chart). It uses separate analyses for hunger and undernutrition, and stresses the differences between them.

Guatemala wins the beauty parade, coming ‘a resounding number one’ both on hunger and undernutrition. The report hails ‘a range of efforts by the Government of Guatemala:

  • Ensuring high level of access to drinking water (92% of the population)
  • Ensuring good levels of access to improved sanitation (78%);
  • Promoting complementary feeding practices, and ensuring over nine out of ten pregnant women are visited by a skilled health personnel at least once before delivery;
  • Investing substantially in health and having a separate nutrition budget line to make its spending accountable to all;
  • Putting in place a Zero Hunger Plan that aims to reduce chronic malnutrition in children less than 5 years of age by 10% in 2016;
  • Ensuring that public policy is informed by robust and up to date evidence on nutrition statuses;
  • Establishing a multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder coordination mechanism that is regionally recognised as an example of good practice.’

In contrast Guinea Bissau is at the bottom of the heap. Other findings include:

  • Big variation between countries (eg within the BRICS, South Africa is the hero, and India the zero)
  • Economic growth has not necessarily led to a commitment from governments to tackle hunger and undernutrition
  • Conversely, countries with low per capita GDP and relatively slow growth, like Malawi, can demonstrate commitment (Malawi came second after Guatemala)
  • Very low level of correlation between performance on hunger and on nutrition (not clear what to make of that)

Here’s the full index (keep clicking to enlarge a bit):

HANCI infographicThe HANCI raises lots of questions about the patterns that emerge. All 3 Latin American countries are in the top 5, but the Asian and African countries are much more intermixed. What other features are worth studying? The link to political regimes? Aid dependence? Conflict? It’s a good index and will provide lots of, errm, food for thought.

(And for non-English speakers wondering about the title of this post, it’s a pun on hankie. Geddit?)

April 11, 2013
Duncan Green