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New metric on hunger and food insecurity piloted by FAO

A new, faster and more precise way of measuring hunger and food insecurity across the world is soon to be fieldtested by FAO in several pilot countries.

At the moment, FAO is able to accurately monitor food availability at the national level, particularly in terms of potential energy intake, however the new indicator will measure food access at the individual level, and will provide a clearer idea of personal experiences with food insecurity. The new approach will complement FAO's existing indicator on the percentage of undernourished in the population.

The new approach – known as the Voices of the Hungry project – relies on gathering information on the extent and severity of hunger from foodinsecure people, through a carefullydesigned annual survey to be conducted in collaboration with polling specialists Gallup, Inc.

Under the Voices of the Hungry project, nationally representative samples of 1,000 to 5,000 people, depending on the size of the country, will be selected to answer eight questions (see Box 1) designed to reveal whether and how respondents have experienced food insecurity in the previous 12 months. The questions establish the respondents' position on a Food Insecurity Experience Scale which differentiates between mild, moderate and severe food insecurity.

Starting in March 2013, the new approach will be finalized in collaboration with major experts in the field and tested on a pilot basis in four countries – Angola, Ethiopia, Malawi and Niger. The plan is to then extend the survey to more than 160, 000 respondents in up to 150 countries covered by the Gallup World Poll and to publish updated results on each country every year. The project will run for five years and will lead to the establishment of a new FAO-certified standard for food security monitoring that could then be adopted by other household surveys.

Results of the surveys will be available in days, allowing FAO to take an almost real-time snapshot of a nation's food insecurity situation. This will be the first occasion that FAO takes on responsibility for data collection. In parallel, FAO will assist countries to include the Scale in their ongoing survey plans and programmes to ensure future sustainability.

FAO is currently holding discussions with potential resource partners in order to mobilize funds for the overall Voices of the Hungry project, while the four-country pilot project will be financed by a separate initiative.

For more information, visit: www.fao.org

Box 1: Eight questions

During the last 12 months, was there a time when, because of lack of money or other resources:

  1. You were worried you would run out of food?
  2. You were unable to eat healthy and nutritious food?
  3. You ate only a few kinds of foods?
  4. You had to skip a meal?
  5. You ate less than you thought you should?
  6. Your household ran out of food?
  7. You were hungry but did not eat?
  8. You went without eating for a whole day?

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New metric on hunger and food insecurity piloted by FAO. Field Exchange 45, May 2013. p34. www.ennonline.net/fex/45/newmetric

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