Nutrition climbs up the global agenda

Nutrition climbs up the global agenda

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A veritable “who’s who” of the nutrition community recently gathered in Washington, DC, for a World Bank-sponsored event, Nutrition in the Post-2015 Development Agenda.  Global policy and advocacy experts discussed the importance of nutrition in the successor framework to the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) – more specifically, how to connect the technical aspects of nutrition and development with the political and practical “in order to come up with concrete and actionable principles and recommendations.”

Why this high-level discussion of nutrition, and why now?  Nutrition is a key component of reaching MDG 1 (reduce hunger and extreme poverty by half).  It’s critical to  nearly all the other goals as well. As 2015, the expiration date of the original MDGs, approaches, there's a lot of buzz about post-2015 global development goals. That’s why now is the best opportunity to strengthen nutrition’s place in the existing goals and/ or to come up with a new goal that recognizes the foundational role of nutrition to a range of  development goals.

With more than 2 billion people around the world suffering from malnutrition  (including more than 865 million children), we have a long way to go to create the future we believe in: one in which everyone, but especially women of reproductive age and children, has access to adequate nutritious food. According to the chair of the U.N.’s Standing Committee on Nutrition, the so-called “burden of malnutrition” takes three forms: undernutrition, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and obesity. We need to focus urgently on easing this burden.

There is a growing consensus that combating stunting in children (measured by significant deviation from the expected height for a child’s age) should be the highest priority. Reducing stunting  is one of the six global targets endorsed by the World Health Assembly in 2012, which suggested a goal of reducing the number of children under age 5 who are stunted by  40 percent by 2022. This would translate to 40 million fewer stunted kids than there would otherwise be.

 

Why stop at 40 percent reduction? Is a goal of zero stunting in children attainable? FAO Director-General Graziano da Silva, in his guidance on ensuring that eradicating hunder and malnutrition and building food security remain high priorities in the post-2015 development framework, urged the international community to commit to "the complete eradication of hunger" in setting country priorities. This follows U.N. Secretary Ban Ki-Moon's Zero Hunger Challenge, which was announced in June 2012 at the Rio+20 Sustainable Development Conference.

 

Also recently, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) issued a position paper entitled "A World Free from Hunger and Malnutrition" that calls for zero stunting to be considered "a new benchmark for global development success." GAIN is a global foundation that assists nearly 670 million people facing malnutrition in more than 30 countries. In recommending that nutrition be at the heart of the post-2015 development framework, GAIN emphasizes that stunting strongly correlates with development - what happens on stunting offers a good measure of progress on a range of other development objectives. Reaching the specific deliverable goal of zero stunting would be the best indicator that the world's children are getting the right start in life.

 

The critical importance of nutrition across nearly all development sectors is being recognized. Global momentum on improving nutrition is growing, especially in the countries most burdened by malnutrition and stunting. Consensus among nutrition experts on the importance of stunting as a nutrition indicator has been reached. What is left is the need to communicate one message to global political leaders in a powerful, unified, and simple way: improving nutrition is key to ending hunger in our lifetime.

 

This blog was cross-posted from Bread for the World Institute's Blog

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