Academic and policy literatures as well as dominant narratives on
nutrition in development have long had a tendency to conflate hunger
with undernutrition, and food security with nutrition security. This
suggests that commitment metrics, which have gained popularity in recent
years, should be sensitive to these differences. This article aims to
assess empirically whether government commitment to hunger reduction is
the same as commitment to addressing undernutrition.
9 commitment indicators were derived from the political commitment
literature to enable a survey to test the hypothesis that governments
are equally committed to hunger reduction and improving undernutrition.
Structured surveys were then conducted with 213 experts in developing
countries with high burdens of hunger and undernutrition: Bangladesh,
Malawi, Nepal, Tanzania and Zambia. In each case commitment to hunger
reduction was not the same as commitment to nutrition, and paired
t-tests show that these differences are frequently statistically
significant. In Bangladesh, Malawi, Tanzania and Zambia we found
substantial evidence that hunger reduction commitment exceeds nutrition
commitment. In Nepal, evidence is less pronounced but suggests that
nutrition commitment surpasses hunger commitment. We thus affirm our
hypothesis that government commitment to hunger reduction does not
equate with commitment to nutrition, and propose that commitment metrics
are sensitive to these differences in order to better guide public
policy and programmatic action.
The expert perception survey tool we presented offers a diagnostic for
governments, donors, civil society leaders and nutrition champions to
assess in which areas commitment is in need of being strengthened, and
in which areas further strengthening may not be a priority. The
commitment metric developed in this paper is a first, imperfect effort.
We anticipate improving the survey instrument to more precisely
disentangle commitment to food aspects from commitment to the care,
hygiene and health aspects of nutrition security, and to use vignette
techniques to enable cross-country comparisons.
This research is supported by the Department for International Development’s Transform Nutrition Programme which is led by International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI)
Te Lintelo, D.J.H.; Lakshman, R. Unravelling Commitment? An Empirical Assessment of Political Commitment to Reduce Hunger and Undernutrition in Five High Burden Countries. Institute of Development Studies, Brighton, UK (2015) 28 pp. [Evidence Report 138]