Today's exercise, dear readers, is to spot made up numbers in major news stories. Leading newspapers today report on FAO's new world hunger numbers (see FT and NYT). The FAO reports that the number of hungry people fell from 1.02 billion in 2008 to 925 million in 2009. That's very good news, unless it didn't happen.
Inquiring minds want to know:
(1) how did the FAO come up with a number for 2009, when the World Development Indicators (WDI) of the World Bank are only reporting malnutrition numbers up through 2008?
(2) how did the the FAO even come up with a number for 2008, when the current WDI reports malnutriton indicators (either height for age or weight for age for children under 5 ) for only 4 countries?
(3) the FAO says that two-thirds of the hungry are concentrated in seven countries: (in order of number, with WDI latest year of data between 2005 and 2008 reported in parentheses): China (none), India (2006), the Democratic Republic of Congo (2007), Bangladesh (2007), Indonesia (2007), Ethiopia (2005), and Pakistan (none). So how did they arrive at numbers for these countries for both 2008 and 2009?
(4) is there any possibility that political pressure surrounding the hunger Millennium Development Goal (MDG) led to the creation of numbers based on the alternative methodology known as "wild guesses"? If so please explain why we cannot talk about the tragedy of world hunger without making up numbers?
(5) a good test of how serious is the UN about the hunger MDG is that it would have devoted a lot of effort to improving the data on hunger. Does the UN pass this test?
Perhaps the FAO has very good answers for these questions. I am asking you to do some of the work here, dear readers, and investigate the mystery of the missing hunger indicators underlying non-missing precise world hunger data. I will write a follow up post as you and others respond.