Hunger, Africa, Indices, and the need for Accuracy

Today, the 2014 Global Hunger Index (GHI) was released. The GHI is put together by the The International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), who seek sustainable solutions for ending hunger and poverty. The GHI, as well as IFPRI’s work in general, are important because high quality research can “shape policies, investments, and programs, contributing to a productive, sustainable and resilient agricultural and food system.”
That said, one concern with the GHI is the data utilized. Specifically, the GHI uses “the most recent country-level data available for the three component indicators”:

-Prevalence of underweight children (under five years of age, as a %)
-Under-five mortality rate (as a %)
-Proportion of undernourished in the population (as a %).

While some countries may have indicators that are current, other countries may only reflect outdated, likely now-inaccurate figures. Consequently, the GHI for the latter countries may offer a skewed, incorrect assessment of hunger. For example, in calculating Eritrea’s overall GHI for 2014, data used for “prevalence of underweight children (under five years of age, as a %)” come from the WHO’s figures – from 2002. Considering Eritrea’s general success in the UN MDGs – it is amongst the only countries to achieve the large majority of them – its figures for prevalence of underweight children will likely have reduced.

Ultimately, poor, inaccurate data or unreliable estimates frequently lead to ineffective, inefficient policies or solutions to developmental challenges and issues. With global hunger such a pressing issue, it is important to offer clear, accurate estimates that can support evidence-based decision making for hunger reduction or other dimensions of socio-economic development.

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