South Africa ranks highest in the first Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index – Africa (HANCI-Africa) launched today. Produced by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) with African Union’s New Partnership for Africa’s Development (NEPAD).
HANCI-Africa 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, tackling hunger and undernutrition needs to be a priority.
The findings from the new Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index – Africa (HANCI-Africa) discussed at an event today in South Africa show that African governments vary widely in their commitment to tackling hunger and undernutrition, with the rankings revealed.
How does HANCI-Africa rank other countries?
Malawi closely follows South Africa in HANCI-Africa in second place. They both provide strong constitutional protections to the right to food and provide good social safety 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, South Africa can go further by investing in agriculture and strengthening access to sanitation – these are currently lacking for a third of its South population. The government of South Africa’s investment in agriculture is also 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.
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 37th (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.
A larger focus on women’s empowerment
Women’s empowerment is known to be a key factor in successfully addressing hunger and undernutrition. Legal recognition and protection of women’s rights can provide an enabling framework. Yet, HANCI-Africa also 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.
Dolf te Lintelo, Research Fellow at the Institute of Development Studies, and lead researcher on HANCI-Africa, said: “Across countries in Africa, the research has also identified how much ground remains to be covered in supporting women’s rights. Women’s access to agricultural land or economic rights are still often on unequal terms, to advantage men, which can greatly affect women’s ability to access adequate nutrition for themselves and their children.”
Governments need to take a coordinated and consistent approach
HANCI-Africa shows that the countries at the lower end of the rankings are characterised by inconsistencies rather than poor performances addressing hunger and nutrition across the board. 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.
Over time, country leaders need a coordinated, 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.