One year ago, on 8 June 2013, the global community gathered in London at the Nutrition for Growth event (N4G) to pledge, US$4.1 (£2.9) billion in efforts to improve nutrition worldwide. At the event 94 stakeholders from governments, civil society organisations (CSOs), and businesses came together to make ambitious commitments to improving nutrition globally, with the specific goal of preventing 20 million cases of stunting and saving 1.7 million lives.
Why is nutrition important?
Despite having enough food to feed the world, malnutrition, which includes both undernutrition and over-nutrition remains a challenge worldwide. Undernutrition, where individuals are not able to consume adequate energy or nutrients to live a healthy and active lifestyle remains a serious challenge, and is responsible for 45 per cent of all under-5 deaths. Undernourished children who do survive often remain stunted, or too short for their age. The 165 million children worldwide who are stunted are likely to complete fewer years of schooling, earn less as adults, have increased susceptibility to non-communicable diseases, and are less likely to escape poverty. At the same time, overweight and obesity, where individuals consume too much energy and expend too little increasing risks of non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease, are also increasing especially in low and middle income countries, where an estimated 80% of the cases of non-communicable diseases occur.
What has happened in the last year?
On 2 June 2014 representatives from a number of key organisations and governments who made pledges at N4G, including the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Children’s Investment Fund Foundation and the UK Department for International Development, came together in London to discuss progress over the last year and see what remains to be done.
Last summer, DFID in consultation with a number of CSOs, developed an accountability framework which details how pledges made at the N4G event will be tracked and accountability for nutrition improved. One of the key points of the framework was the establishment of the Global Nutrition Report, the first of which will be launched in November of this year. At the event we heard from Professor Lawrence Haddad, co-chair of the report’s Stakeholder Group about the report, that the report will detail the state of nutrition around the world, looking at both under and over-nutrition, in an effort to draw attention to the greatest problems that remain as well highlight success. The report will also include a chapter on progress towards all N4G pledges.
CSOs and businesses who made pledges have been working on a framework for reporting their own progress. The donors who made pledges have developed developing a new methodology for how to track money spent on nutrition specific and sensitive projects.
What needs to happen next?
The development of an accountability framework identified areas where gaps remain. Speakers at the event in London specifically highlighted the following:
- 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.
Keeping the momentum
We need to make sure that the momentum and interest in nutrition is not lost. Nutrition has been a neglected issue for far too long but we have the opportunity to change that. The money pledged at N4G is not insignificant, but it is only a drop in the ocean compared to what is needed. The 2013 Lancet series estimated that $9.6 billion is need each year to scale up a set of 10 interventions with a strong evidence base in the 34 countries which represent 80% of the stunting burden to 90% coverage. We need to make sure that the $4.1 billion is used in the most effective ways possible.
Finally, as His Excellency Roberto Jaguaribe, Brazilian Ambassador to the UK said: “we need to recognise that nutrition is essentially a political issue, not a technical one”. We have the evidence base of what works, now we need to harness the political will to ensure we have the resources and will to implement effective nutrition programmes globally and high quality and accessible data available to all citizens so they are able to hold their governments to account.
By Kat Pittore, IDS nutrition convenor