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Action Against Hunger welcomes the 2018 Global Nutrition Report and its focus on the urgent need to engage more profoundly on nutrition. As the report illustrates, governments have a long way to go in order to meet targets set by the World Health Organization, Nutrition for Growth, the UN Decade for Nutrition, and more.
The Global Nutrition Report (GNR) shows that nutrition, in its various forms, is a problem in every country in the world. Past progress has the potential to be thwarted by alarming negative trends, and this reversal will only be overcome by heightened global action. For too long, nutrition was dealt with in siloes. We now know that a holistic approach is needed, and it must include access to free healthcare to ensure the right to nutrition for all.
The report’s grim picture should not be misconstrued as defeat. Now more than ever, we have the necessary tools, data, and knowledge to end malnutrition. We have strong evidence of the return that investment in nutrition brings, especially for for adolescent girls and young women. This evidence should lead global action – if not addressed now, momentum may be lost as we face the emerging nutrition problems linked to climate change and protracted conflict.
Action Against Hunger echoes the call made by the report to donors to increase the Official Development Aid dedicated to nutrition to respond to existing needs and help governments and agencies deliver on their commitments. The current funding commitment for nutrition, merely half a percent, is nowhere near up to scale with demands. Efforts made to improve tracking of donor contributions on nutrition through a new marker (SUN-ACF) will be adopted worldwide in 2020 and will foster more accountability from donors.
While the GNR cites the innovative mechanisms and business investment needed to supplement government nutrition financing, Action Against Hunger sees political will and prioritization of nutrition within national budgets as the more decisive and proactive course of action. Malnutrition will only be addressed by public health and nutrition sensitive and specific policies to ensure access to healthy diets and to guarantee nutrition as a right of every citizen. The private sector can be mobilized to contribute to these goals, but they cannot be held accountable and have no mandate to uphold citizen’s rights.
The GNR offers new data and perspectives on successes in several countries that have included nutrition into their subnational budgets, indicating they have higher percentages than national budgets. Decentralized budgets appear to be a more efficient approach, leading to increases in access to health and nutrition and allowing for the delivery of assistance closer to those most in need.
However, despite progress made in collecting data, huge information gaps are still noted in the report. There is a lack of data on micronutrient deficiencies, low birth weight, and other sub-groups of severely acute malnourished children, such as children under six months old and those suffering from kwashiorkor.
We welcome the report’s emphasis on the role of suboptimal diets as one of the main drivers of malnutrition and appreciate that proposed solutions are not narrowed down to a few silver bullets, but range from promoting a wide array of foods that contribute to healthy diets, to the reduction of highly processed foods high in fats, sugars, and salt.
This is an important step to address the root causes of nutrition, and we encourage the GNR to analyze beyond individual demands and consumptions patterns, but instead to look at healthy agricultural production models and value chains. Small-scale farmers, fishermen and pastoralists—who could all play an important role in addressing root causes of malnutrition—account for 55% of those suffering from hunger. In the face of challenges like climate change, a paradigm shift is needed. We must recognize the importance of supporting food producers who could contribute to more healthy environments and to more diverse, healthy, and sustainable diets.
We are at a crossroads. This year’s Global Nutrition Report leaves no doubt: now is the time for decision makers to act against the unacceptable levels of malnutrition all over the world.