Malawi GHI 2016: Sustaining Progress through a Time of Crisis

ghi-2016-coverThe Global Hunger Index (GHI) is a tool designed to comprehensively measure and track hunger globally, regionally, and by country. Each year the GHI is calculated and used to assess progress. By calling attention to the issue, we hope that the GHI will trigger action to reduce hunger in Malawi and around the world. This year’s report considered ‘Ending Hunger by 2030’, and included a case study by Concern Worldwide Malawi related its experiences on ‘Building Resilient Systems in Relation to Food and Nutrition’. The report was presented in an event in Lilongwe hosted by the International Food Policy Research Institute, Welthungerhilfe, and Concern Worldwide. While the results for Malawi show progress, experts at the event cautioned that Malawi still faces serious challenges to further reducing hunger, particularly given current food shortages due to severe drought this year.

The GHI ranks countries based on four key indicators: undernourishment, child mortality, child wasting and child stunting, with higher scores representing worse hunger. In 1992 the GHI rated Malawi with a 57.6 score, putting it in the “extremely alarming” category and among the 10 highest hunger scores in the world. Since then, the country has reduced its GHI score by more than half, and is now ranked 89 of 118 countries.

Nevertheless, the country’s 2016 GHI score of 26.9 demonstrates that hunger is still a major challenge in Malawi. Data in this year’s GHI show that just over 20% of Malawians do not have sufficient quantities of food (a measure described as under-nourishment) and 42.4% of Malawian children under five years of age are stunted (based on estimates from the MGDS endline in 2014-15). Stunting is an indicator for chronic under-nutrition. Stunted children are too short for their age, effecting physical, cognitive and income-earning capacity for those children in the future.

Furthermore, the current food crisis has the potential to reverse Malawi’s progress in reducing hunger. The World Food Programme estimates that as many as 6.5 million Malawians — almost two in five people in the country — are in need of emergency assistance in the 2016-17 lean season.

Given this situation, supporting Malawi to maintain its previous rate of improvement requires swift action on a number of fronts, in addition to the ongoing humanitarian response which will work hard to address the short term food needs. Bouncing back from this food crisis in the medium-term requires: 1) a strong health system, including nutrition monitoring and prevention; 2) a resilient production system, which can support a healthy population in spite of climatic variability and limited resources; and 3) a food market environment that facilitates the availability and affordability of diverse foods even in the lean season, among other things.

The Malawi GHI Launch and Technical Discussion, held 10 November 2016 in the Sunbird Capital Hotel, addressed this important issue by asking how we can “Sustain Progress through a Time of Crisis”. The Director of the Department of Nutrition, HIV and Aids, Mr. Felix Phiri, gave opening remarks noting that we can learn from past national initiatives – such as increasing girls schooling – that successfully contributed to decreases in hunger and undernutrition.

After presenting the GHI results, technical experts from academia, civil society, government, and development partner organizations discussed both the causes of past successes and necessary actions required to avoid the long-term effects of the food crisis. Panelist Dr. Alex Kalimbira from Lilongwe University emphasized that political will for continued improvements in hunger and nutrition is critical. Some of the key suggestions that emerged from the discussion include increasing accountability, integrating nutrition objectives into other social support programs, facilitating a stronger role for private sector in efforts to fight hunger, and maintaining the position of hunger and nutrition and a high-priority issue for the government and development partners. The complete outcomes of the event will be disseminated in an event report soon.



Global Hunger Index 2016 Report

GHI Case Studies: Working to Zero Hunger

Presentation of Malawi GHI Results