Nutrition for Growth – one year on

nutrition for growthThe 2nd of June marked the one year anniversary of the Nutrition for Growth summit in London hosted by the UK Department for International Development, the Brazilian government and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation. During the summit, over $4.1 billion was pledged to nutrition programmes until 2020, a financial commitment unprecedented and one that put nutrition in the spotlight. On the 2nd of June, an event hosted by the School of African and Oriental Studies entitled, Nutrition for Growth – one year on, reported progress made since the summit.

Nutrition has been gaining momentum on the international stage over the last few years: from the Lancet series on Maternal and Child Health in 2008, to the Scaling Up Nutrition movement begun in 2010, to the World Health Assembly targets on nutrition agreed in 2012. Dialogue at an international level about how to integrate nutrition in decision making is happening, in part spurred by the cost of malnutrition to the global economy. Ahead of the summit, the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation announced that the cost of lost productivity and healthcare due to malnutrition could be as much as 5% of global GDP, or $500 per person. In November this year the Second International Conference on Nutrition will take place in Barcelona and ongoing discussions around the post-2015 development goals will likely feature nutrition in some way. Proposed goals and targets on Sustainable Development for the Post-2015 Development Agenda were released recently by the UN and include targets to reduce both stunting and wasting.

Countries, governments and donors are also making progress in tackling nutrition. In May, Canada hosted a summit on maternal, new-born and child health, with nutrition a key theme, and pledged $3.5bn between 2015 and 2020. DFID have launched nine new projects to increase spending to tackle malnutrition in some of the world’s poorest countries, including a £36 million nutrition programme in Ethiopia that will reach 3.5 million children.

As for the funds committed at the Nutrition for Growth summit, it is perhaps too early to tell how much has materialised yet and while donors appear to be dedicated to tackling undernutrition, momentum will need to be maintained to ensure these aren’t just empty promises. Civil society organisation partners under the Generation Nutrition campaign launched in April are mobilising organisations and individuals to put pressure on governments to meet their commitments.

Also pledged at the summit was a future Global Nutrition Report, which will be launched in November and will include a chapter recording progress towards the Nutrition for Growth funding commitments. Individually, civil society organisation and businesses have been working on a framework to report the progress they are making and donors are developing methodologies for tracking how their committed funds are being spent, accountability being a big theme of the summit. The summit also led to the formation of the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition.

At the recent event, as reported by the Institute of Development Studies (IDS), speakers highlighted the following priorities for the future:

  • The need for a data revolution. The process of collecting data for the Global Nutrition Report highlighted how many gaps exist in the current nutrition data. More funding needs to be diverted into collecting rigorous nutrition data.
  • Ensure nutrition is prominent in the post 2015 framework. Based on the idea that what is measured is what gets done, it is vital that nutrition is prominent in the post-2015 framework.
  • Improved integration and coordination. Much of the dialogue and funding has been focused on innovative solutions, but more needs to be done to look at how to better use existing deliver platforms or simply get down to doing things.
  • Increased funding. Nutrition is still seen in many countries as a donor issue. We need to see increased domestic resources allocated for nutrition globally.

A clear message is that nutrition has been neglected for a long time and although interest in nutrition is significant and growing, this momentum needs to be maintained if real impact is to be made. The money pledged represents a significant opportunity but insufficient to tackle the scale of the problem. A follow up series in the 2013 Lancet series estimated that $9.6 billion is need each year to scale up the ten most promising nutrition interventions in the 34 countries with the highest burden of stunting. Such interventions could reduce the number of stunted children by 33.5 million and reduce the rate of severe acute malnutrition by more than 60%.

The one year anniversary set out what we have – a strong evidence base, the technical know-how and the beginnings of a meaningful dialogue – and what we still need – transformation of commitments to action, clear accountability and transparency frameworks, and sufficient political will.

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