Blog: The New UN Hunger Report – What Does It Mean?

OK, so the UN has produced a new report on hunger and says there are now 805 million hungry people in the world. What does that mean? Is it good? Is it bad?

Well, first of all the so-called SOFI report does show progress. There’s a decline of more than 100 million in the ranks of the hungry over the last decade. That’s slightly more people than the population of the Philippines. If you go back to 1990–92,  it’s progress of 209 million – a bit more than the population of Brazil.

So that’s substantial. However, if you put it next to the target the world set itself in the Millennium Development Goals, it’s not quite enough. The MDG on hunger, agreed by world leaders in 2000, is to halve the proportion of undernourished people in the world by the end of 2015. 

Since the benchmark year of 1990, the proportion of hungry people in developing regions has dropped from 23.4 percent to 13.5 percent, just short of the 11.7 percent target. If current trends continue, it could fall a bit further — to 12.8 percent  — by next year. But it’s still not quite enough to meet the goal.

It’s clear then that the rate of reduction needs to be accelerated. And with less than 500 days to go until the deadline to reach the Millennium Development Goals, something needs to shift, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and Southern and Western Asia. 

What it boils down to is that ending hunger has to be placed firmly at the centre of the political agenda. Just as a side note, this is one reason why WFP is organising an event at the UN General Assembly next week: to focus attention on the Zero Hunger Challenge – the drive launched by the Secretary General to unite governments, private sector, communities and individuals behind the fight to eradicate hunger.

OK, you might say, so if the world were to commit to those extra efforts to hit the MDG target, what exactly would need to be done?

The actions needed include investments to boost food production and to improve social safety nets to lift people out of extreme poverty. In almost all cases, what’s needed are integrated strategies – in other words, we need to fit our various hunger-fighting programmes together so they support each other.

An example of this from the WFP world is when we get free school meal programmes to buy food from smallholder farmers. This helps to raise those producers’ incomes and stimulates the local supply of more-nutritious foods. The school meals help to keep children in school (a good thing in itself) while ensuring that they get at least one nutritous meal every day.

Of course, the elephant in the room in all of this is war. Conflict is a major driver of hunger and it’s no coincidence that four of WFP’s biggest food assistance operations at present are in countries wracked by conflict – Syria, Iraq, CAR and South Sudan. Here too, real political will is needed. Because if fighting stopped, agriculture and trade could resume, people could return to work, food would be more-accessible to more people.  And there would undoubtedly be a reduction in the number of hungry people. 

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Rethink needed on humanitarian funding for national NGOs

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Humanitarian financing needs to be more inclusive of national NGOs

  • NGOs get tiny percent of direct official humanitarian aid
  • Large donors wary of funding national NGOs
  • Information gaps on third-party funding agreements
  • Donors need to keep up with changing times

DAKAR, 15 September 2014 (IRIN) – With humanitarian aid effectiveness high on the agenda of the 2016 World Humanitarian Summit,  there is much talk of how to reform humanitarian financing to make it more inclusive of national NGOs, but risk aversion will slow progress, say analysts.

Between 2009 and 2013 local and national NGOs received 1.6 percent of the humanitarian aid that international donors gave to NGOs, representing 0.2 percent of total humanitarian aid, according to research by Development Initiatives. The actual percentages might be different given that these figures represent only assistance reported to the UN Financial Tracking System. All agree, however, that the percentage is low, particularly when compared to the development sector, which turns to national NGOs far more prominently.

Guillaume Le Duc, director of development and communications at NGO Alima which partners with national NGOs, said this amounts to exclusion, noting that even strong, technically expert NGOs – such as BEFEN in Niger and Alerte Santé in Chad – cannot access the bulk of international funding directly. As a result, “it qualifies the capacity to manage and deliver services based on the citizenship of the organization and not on the quality of the staff or their track record,” he said, adding: “Qualified staff who worked for MSF [Médecins Sans Frontières] in other countries and wanted to return home could find no work in their own country.”

For Makimere Tamberi, president of Chadian health NGO Alerte Santé, which relies on funds through ALIMA as well as some small-scale foundation funding, said this exclusion reduces aid effectiveness. “Qualified national NGOs can intervene more quickly than international NGOs. We’re already there [in the country]. We have the expertise. We can do it more cheaply. If money were given directly, it would speed up the response,” he told IRIN.

Alerte Santé was running a nutrition programme in Southern Chad’s camps for returnees and refugees from the Central African Republic and applied for international funding to extend it, but had to cut it short due to the lack of response.

In the first report done on national NGO humanitarian funding, Aid at the Sharp End, NGO CAFOD sharply criticized the current funding system when it comes to the approach to national NGOs: “International financing for national NGOs. is not fit for purpose. It is unpredictable, volatile, difficult to access, insufficient and is not sufficiently enabling to support the strengthening and capacity development. that is central to improving preparedness, response capacity and resilience to disasters.”

Most national NGOs receive funding through international NGOs or sometimes UN agencies, according to analysts. But some direct international funding is available: notably country-based pooled funds which have been set up in several countries and deemed to work well, particularly in Somalia, Sudan and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).

The proportion of pooled fund money going to national NGOs has increased gradually over recent years.

Perceived risks

The NGO Start Network, which aims to improve aid effectiveness by reforming emergency funding approaches, among other things, plans eventually to fund national NGOs directly. But currently “owing to risk aversion in donor governments” Start channels at least half of its funds to national NGOs through sub-agreements whereby international NGOs take the legal risk for implementation, said the network’s coordinator, Sean Lowrie.

National NGOs can also approach national governments for humanitarian funding – the Chadian, Philippines and Ethiopian governments among others, have encouraged this approach over recent years, but national disaster management agencies themselves in many cases need more direct donor support or investment, say analysts.
Most large donors, meanwhile, refrain from directing funding national NGOs due to the perceived risks involved. European Union humanitarian aid body ECHO is legally bound only to fund NGOs that have signed a framework partnership agreement and thus have proven their operational and administrative capability, something which goes beyond the scope of most national NGOs.

The UK Department for International Development (DFID) funds mainly through partners and pooled funds, though national NGO funding is about to be reviewed, according to sources there, and partners and suppliers are having to increase their transparency when it comes to the visibility of local NGOs. DFID aims eventually to be able to trace official development assistance along the aid delivery chain, including through national NGOs, to show where the money is spent.

In a region like West and Central Africa new NGOs are setting up all the time. So the question is: can donors reconfigure a system where they take these actors into account? Because at some point they will have to.

The US Agency for International Development (USAID), meanwhile, is making a concerted effort to channel more funds through government and local institutions through its initiative USAID Forward.

Risk tolerance guides donor approaches to national NGOs, said Lisa Doughten, head of the UN Central Emergency Response Fund (CERF). “Ultimately the donor needs to feel comfortable with the level of risk they’re taking on through the chain. What is their tolerance level? If it shifts, additional direct funding might open up.”

Managing risk

Pre-auditing national NGOs, which the DRC and Somalia country humanitarian funds attempted, is an effective way to manage risk and should be extended to other funders, said CAFOD’s humanitarian adviser, Anne Street.

CAFOD also recommends that donors and UN agencies improve awareness of what funds are available to national NGOs; set up pooled funds specifically targeting national NGOs; undertake an assessment of national NGO capacity country by country; and adjust contracts to be more favourable to national NGOs.

Training national NGO staff so they are better aware of available funding and how to access it should be a priority in coming years, said Jessica Alexander in the Policy Analysis and Innovations Section of OCHA, noting that this capacity building should also apply to national disaster management authorities, which are increasingly taking the helm on response.

And stricter reporting requirements should be set up to track the impact of indirect funding to national NGOs, said Street. “Very few funding recipients are able, let alone required, to report even basic information about the funds they pass on to third-party implementers, so there is no way systematically assessing the timeliness, appropriateness or impact of funding.”

CAFOD’s report and its recommendations are gaining traction, said Street, who is helping to convene a series of global discussions to map reform priorities.

While all agree that some degree of change is needed in international financing to national NGOs, many assert the importance of various actors along the transaction chain when funding is indirect. OCHA’s Alexander said: “People tend to overlook the capacity the international community can bring [to the funding cycle] – the middle man can be a broker of solutions – can provide accountability, stress humanitarian principles, transparency, among other vital roles.”

The CERF’s Doughten agrees, saying: “If each part of the chain is working well, it would add value.” But Street is more sceptical, calling the pervasive long transaction chains “inefficient and expensive.”

Sub-contracting humanitarian finances typically means that 7 percent of the contracted amount is taken up in administrative costs. But overheads should not be seen as waste, stressed Alima’s Le Duc. “I could run a programme on 1 percent overheads but I couldn’t guarantee the quality. Likewise some agencies may be at 25 percent overheads but maybe they’re the most efficient,” he told IRIN, noting: “On 7 percent you don’t necessarily have the room to provide career development to further qualify staff – something that can make a project 50 times more efficient.”

Assessing the comparative advantages of direct versus indirect funding requires more study. But one thing is clear for Le Duc: donors need to keep up with the changing times. “In a region like West and Central Africa new NGOs are setting up all the time – the same thing is happening in the political and media arenas. So the question is: can donors reconfigure a system where they take these actors into account? Because at some point they will have to.”


Statement from Minister Paradis on International Day of Charity

September 5, 2014 – From an outbreak of the Ebola virus to the conflict in Syria to ongoing violence in many African countries, there are significant humanitarian needs around the world. In 2013, more than 140 million people were affected by acute humanitarian crises as a result of natural disasters, conflict or political insecurity around the globe. According to the United Nations Refugee Agency, the global refugees exceeded 50 million this year for first time since the Second World War. Children make up more than half of those displaced.

The International Day of Charity emphasizes the importance of charitable efforts – whether by individuals or organizations – in alleviating human suffering and the impact of humanitarian crises. The act of providing charity creates social bonds and contributes to a more inclusive society in Canada and abroad.

Canadians have a reputation for being compassionate and charitable people. It’s a reputation that stems from generous donations and volunteer service during times of humanitarian need or to alleviate poverty. As Minister of International Development, I have the opportunity to see the difference volunteer efforts of Canadian organizations are making in the lives of people around the globe. Canadian volunteers are working in more than 100 countries around the globe to contribute to sustainable development goals. These efforts are complemented by Canada’s response to humanitarian crises, including many of the recent large-scale humanitarian crises where Canada has been one of the first to respond and one of the most generous donors.

Canada has committed $353.5 million to assist Syrians affected by the crisis in their country. With our support in 2014, humanitarian partners have distributed emergency relief items to more than 2.5 million people in Syria, provided food assistance to 3.7 million people in Syria and, reached 25 million children across the region in response to the polio outbreak.

When Typhoon Haiyan slammed into the Philippines in 2013 Canadians donated over $85 million to registered eligible Canadian charities. Canadians’ generosity was matched by the Government of Canada which worked through Canadian and multilateral partners to provide food for three million people, shelter for up to 500,000 families and restore livelihoods for up to 2.6 million people working in agriculture and fisheries.

And in January 2010, when a massive earthquake struck Haiti, Canadians generously donated more than $220 million to registered eligible Canadian charities responding to the crisis—an amount that was matched by our Government. Canada has continued to invest in Haiti and has helped in achieving the following results: the distribution of hot meals every day throughout the school year to more than 1.7 million Haitian girls and boys, the provision of free health care to 72,000 pregnant women and 212,000 children under the age of five; and strengthening and improving the Haitian health system for 2.2 million Haitians in four provinces.

Our government values the power of individual Canadians coming together to donate to charitable organizations to improve people’s lives around the world. We work with development and humanitarian partners including Canadian NGOs which provide life-saving assistance to those affected by humanitarian crises, as well as the tools they need to build a better future for their families and their nations. To increase the incentive to Canadians to contribute our government introduced the First-Time Donor’s Super Credit last year. Valid until 2017, this credit will supplement the existing non-refundable tax credit for charitable donations by individuals.

On this day, I want to thank all Canadians for their commitment to charitable giving and to encourage them to continue this important tradition in any way they can, whether it’s donating to a charitable organization or volunteering in their community or overseas.

Christian Paradis
Minister of International Development and La Francophonie

Canada Promotes Private Sector Development in Asia

Canada is committed to helping developing countries in Asia move from poverty to prosperity

September 3, 2014 – Vancouver, British Columbia – Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada

Today, at an event hosted by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada (APFC), the Honourable Christian Paradis, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, highlighted the connection between development and trade that leverages benefits in developing countries by fostering sustainable economic growth while providing significant opportunities for the Canadian private sector.

“Together, trade and investment brings jobs, opportunities and growth both to Canada and to our development country partners. We are committed to helping countries transition from development recipients to trading partners,” said Minister Paradis. “Creating private sector-led, sustainable economic growth is the number one way to break the cycle of poverty. By addressing the underlying constraints to trade and investment – and creating investment opportunities for Canadian companies – we in turn create strong economies that provide meaningful employment and self-sufficient communities in which individuals and families can prosper.”

The Minister announced support to two projects in Vietnam and Indonesia, administered by the World Bank and the International Finance Corporation, that leverage the resources, know-how and innovation of private-sector partners in growing businesses and helping to create the conditions for greater trade and investment in emerging economies.

“Canada’s contribution to these projects will help to improve competitiveness, drive growth and reduce poverty in Vietnam, and will provide access to training, credit and global markets for smallholder farmers in Indonesia,” said Minister Paradis. “Through projects like these, Canada is engaged on the ground level to help alleviate poverty, promote growth and create opportunities, both at home and abroad.”

While in Vancouver, the Minister also hosted a round table with members of British Columbia’s Filipino community. Canada has been a leader in responding to last year’s devastating typhoon Haiyan, and on June 27, the Philippines was added as a country of focus for the Government of Canada’s bilateral international development efforts. Discussions focused on how to strengthen future cooperation between the two countries and enhance the fight against poverty in the Philippines.

Quick Facts

  • On May 8, 2014, Minister Christian Paradis was appointed as Chair of the World Economic Forum–Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s Redesigning Development Finance Steering Committee, and charged with promoting a more systematic approach to testing and scaling up financial innovations and blending capital in order to accelerate progress toward development objectives.
  • The APFC is an independent, not-for-profit think tank focused on Canada’s relations with Asia. The APFC brings together people and knowledge to provide the most current and comprehensive research, analysis and information on Canada’s trans-Pacific relations.
  • There are approximately 662,600 people of Filipino descent in Canada. The Philippines has recently become one of the largest source countries of immigrants to Canada.

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Sandrine Périon
Press Secretary
Office of the Minister of International Development and La Francophonie 

Media Relations Office
Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada
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