South Africa, Malawi and Madagascar lead commitment to combat hunger and undernutrition in Africa

African governments vary widely in their commitment to ending hunger and undernutrition, new research launched today shows. The new Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index –
Africa (HANCI-Africa) 2016, produced by the Institute of Development Studies (UK) with the African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD) aims to hold African
leaders to account on the issue and reveals the nations taking the strongest action, as well as those that have the biggest improvements to make. With 220 million Africans still estimated to be suffering from chronic hunger and 58 million children under five stunted by undernutrition, much is at stake.

South Africa ranks highest in this inaugural edition of the index, closely followed by Malawi in second place. They both provide strong constitutional protections to the right to food and
have made significant investments in health services. South Africa also provides sound social safety nets. However, the index shows that both countries have inadequate sanitation services. For instance, these are currently lacking for a third of South Africa’s population.

South African levels of investment in agriculture are relatively low. The high commitment of the government of Malawi is critical for addressing the drought induced food crisis it is
currently facing, caused by the El Nino weather phenomenon.

Isatou Jallow, Senior Nutrition and Partnership Advisor at NEPAD said:

“Our leaders have committed in the 2014 Malabo Declarations, to end hunger and reduce undernutrition (stunting) to 10% in children under five by 2025. However, greater political and multi-stakeholder commitment and action is required to reach these goals, especially the Sustainable Development Goal on ending hunger, achieving food security and improving nutrition and promoting sustainable agriculture and the African Union’s Agenda 2063 Goal for healthy and well-nourished citizens.

“The Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index – Africa, is an important tool to promote accountability by measuring, monitoring and reporting on the actions that African Union member states are taking to combat hunger and undernutrition, highlight progress, gaps and challenges including areas where support is required by countries.”

Dolf te Lintelo, Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, and lead researcher on HANCI-Africa, said:

“This first HANCI-Africa highlights which countries dedicate resources, policies and laws to protect their citizens from hunger and undernutrition. “Laws can support women’s empowerment, which is known to be a key factor in successfully addressing hunger and undernutrition. Last year the African Union declared the year as the African Year of Human Rights, with a focus on the rights of women. However, HANCI-Africa shows much remains to be done in this area. Women in countries including Gambia, Ghana and Sierra Leone have no or few legal rights to own, use and control land on which to grow food, and are severely restricted by discriminatory practices.”

Sudan, Guinea-Bissau and Comoros are at the bottom of the HANCI-Africa rankings. The research shows that each are – amongst others – lacking in social safety nets, dedicated budgets for nutrition and constitutional rights to food. Nigeria ranks 37 th (out of 45), highlighting concerns that the commitment to addressing hunger and undernutrition needs shoring up in Africa’s most populated country and largest economy. While Nigeria has taken some important steps, such as introducing nutrition outcome targets with a clear time frame, it lacks investment in health and agriculture, and many Nigerians continue lacking safe drinking water and sanitation.

HANCI-Africa shows that the countries at the lower end of the rankings are characterised by inconsistencies rather than poor performances on hunger and nutrition across the board. Over time, country leaders need a co-ordinated, consistent approach across a range of areas that drive hunger and undernutrition reduction, rather than focusing improvements in just a few areas, even though these may be important first steps. For example, Sudan has a strong level of public spending on agriculture and Guinea-Bissau achieves 98% vitamin A supplementation coverage, but neither country has social safety nets, ring-fenced budgets for nutrition or constitutional rights to food that can protect their people.

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