In October the issue of hunger usually receives a lot of attention, since World Food Day falls on October 16th. This year was no exception and there were many media reports highlighting the fact that over 1 billion people are going hungry in 2009, as result of an ongoing food crisis, as well as the global economic crunch.
But while there’s always a lot of fanfare around World Food Day, if we are to begin reducing hunger, the challenge is to ensure that the issue gets attention all year round. The challenge then is for journalists to continue to ask questions, to find interesting stories, and innovative ways of covering hunger, poverty and vulnerability.
One valuable resource is the 2009 Global Hunger Index (GHI), released this month by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI). course is to ensure that hunger and poverty get attention all year round.
According to the GHI, while some parts of the world have been making strides in reducing hunger (such as Latin America and the Caribbean), there has been minimal progress in South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa. See some key facts and findings for Sub-Saharan and East Africa at a glance, here.
What is interesting in Africa, is that according to the GHI, Ghana managed to make substantial progress (reducing its hunger index by 50%), and the situation in Malawi improved from ‘extremely alarming’ to merely ‘serious’. On the other hand, the situation in the DRC has deteriorated significantly, while hunger in countries like Zimbabwe, Zambia, Madagascar and Kenya have also increased.
Journalists should be asking questions about why some countries have been doing well, while others have not. What policies in Ghana and Malawi have led to an improvement, and might they be implemented elsewhere? Why are policy makers not looking at these examples and learning lessons? Why and how did hunger increase in other places? How can we reverse this?
One of the key findings of the GHI, is that hunger is strongly related to gender inequalities. As the report says: “The evidence shows that higher levels of hunger are associated with lower literacy rates and access to education for women. High rates of hunger are also linked to health and survival inequalities between men and women. Reducing gender disparities in key areas, particularly in education and health, is thus essential to reduce levels of hunger.”
Another useful resource is ActionAid’s HungerFREE scorecard, also released this month. This publication also looks at who is fighting hunger, and asks the question, “Who’s Really Fighting Hunger?” In answering this question, it looks at issues such as sustainable agriculture, social protection, and climate change.
Again, it’s interesting to see Malawi in 5th place on ActionAid’s chart, with a C grade. This country, one of the world’s poorest, and battling a devastating HIV/Aids epidemic, is managing to do better than far richer nations, such as South Africa (ranked 16th, with a D grade) and Zambia (also a D, and 21st out of 29).