An International Nutrition Index – Successes and Failures in Addressing Hunger and Malnutrition
ZEF – Discussion Papers on Development Policy No. 26 (2000)
64 Pages Posted: 8 Mar 2019
Date Written: April 2000
At international conferences in the 90s, the international community reconfirmed the elimination of hunger and malnutrition as high priority. The Nutrition Index (NI) presented in this paper has been designed to assess the effectiveness of actions taken towards achieving this goal.
The Nutrition Index reflects complementary dimensions of a country’s nutrition situation by including the following indicators:
1) the percentage of undernourished in the population,
2) the prevalence of underweight in children under the age of five, and
3) the under-five-mortality rate, indicating the deadly synergy between inadequate food intake and unhealthy living conditions.
After data refinement and several estimation procedures to supplement lacking data, data availability permits NI calculation for the vast majority of developing countries and at different points in time (1981, 1992 and 1997). The NI serves as a comprehensive measure to analyse performance and trends in combating hunger and malnutrition in single countries and in regions. In North Africa and the Near East, as well as in Latin America and the Caribbean, a nearly satisfactory nutrition situation has been achieved. The nutrition situation is still bad in South Asia and no better than mixed in most of Southeast Asia, but very promising upward trends have been observed in this region since the beginning of the 80s. In large parts of Sub-Saharan Africa, the nutrition situation is bad or even extremely bad, and recent trends do not provide much scope for optimism either. In further analyses, significant correlations between NI values and the prevalence of micro-nutrient deficiencies are found, and the tight connection of macroeconomic performance and people’s ability to be free from hunger and malnutrition is demonstrated. In spite of this, the comparison of NI and GNP per capita also reveals that much economic scope for policies to relieve hunger and malnutrition still remains untapped in many countries. The Nutrition Index, in its function as an international monitoring tool, is hoped to make countries more accountable to their commitments and to help speeding up necessary nutritional improvements.
Keywords: nutrition index, hunger, malnutrition
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