What does new HANCI say about political will to reduce undernutrition in South Asia?

The new HANCI index: assessing political commitment to reduce hunger and undernutrition

The 2013 Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index (HANCI) is out. HANCI ranks countries in terms of their political commitment to reduce hunger and undernutrition. HANCI researchers selected 45 countries that suffer high levels of undernutrition and hunger, choosing countries where adequate data was also available. You can download the 2013 HANCI report here or visit the website.

The Index helps to highlight good intentions by governments and point the finger where progress is slow. With the exception of Nepal, progress remains slow in South Asia.

What does the index say about political commitment in South Asia? 

In South Asia HANCI assessed Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Pakistan. Between 2012 and 2013 Nepal’s ranking jumped from ‘low’ to ‘high’ commitment. It is now in 6th place out of the 45 countries, and leads the way in South Asia. With a ranking of 16, Bangladesh slips into 2nd place in South Asia. Still ranked as ‘moderate’, Bangladesh dropped back slightly from 2012 when it was 12th. Both India (19) and Pakistan (28) were ranked ‘low’. Though India made progress jumping 10 places from 2012, when it was ranked 29. Afghanistan has made progress on some indicators though languishes in the ‘very low’ commitment category at 39.

How does the HANCI index rank countries?

To reduce undernutrition governments need to address a whole host of issues, such as water, sanitation, health, hygiene, agriculture, education and gender equality. Progress cannot be made by single actors or government departments alone; political commitment is key to providing the joined-up approach needed. HANCI ranks countries in terms of their political commitment on three areas of government action: 1) legal frameworks 2) policies and programmes and 3) public expenditures.

The index examines 22 indicators to assess government’s efforts to address both undernutrition and hunger. It makes the distinction between the two because hunger is often conflated with undernutrition. Recent findings from interviews with experts in South Asia, suggest that lack of nutrition literacy itself is a block to progress on nutrition. On this, see Mara van den Bold’s blog-post and presentation. See also Lawrence Haddad’s blog on HANCI

What are Nepal and Bangladesh doing right?

So, what are Nepal and Bangladesh doing right? Both countries have transparent and separate budget lines for nutrition. They have multi-stakeholder coordination platforms and specific time bound targets on nutrition. Both countries are in the top third, of the 45, in terms of the percentage of government spending dedicated to agriculture. In contrast, Afghanistan and Pakistan rank lowest on the agriculture investment indicator. However, Afghanistan and Pakistan do have multi-stakeholder coordination mechanisms and time-bound targets, though not clear and separate budget lines for nutrition. Notably, India has neither multi-stakeholder coordination mechanisms, separate budget lines nor time bound nutrition targets. 

See the excellent HANCI summaries for each of the countries: Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan and Nepal.

Julia Powell
Friday, June 27, 2014

South Asia Focus

Funded by UK DFID

This research has been funded by the UK Government’s Department for International Development; however the views expressed do not necessarily reflect the UK Government’s official policies



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