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.
Nine 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.
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]