Originally posted at 1,000 Days
Last week at the High-Level Meeting on Scaling Up Nutrition in New York City, United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon commended the progress being made by the 30 countries that have committed to putting nutrition at the heart of their approach to development. The 30 SUN countries are home to 56 million children suffering from stunted growth due to chronic malnutrition, representing more than one-quarter of the world’s stunted children.
Putting nutrition front and center
The Secretary General stressed the importance of boosting global efforts to end “the hidden disgrace of stunting.” His comments were echoed by Anthony Lake, Chairman of the SUN Lead Group and Executive Director of UNICEF, who noted that stunting is one of the most under-recognized and under-attended issues in the world today, yet it can be prevented for approximately $15 per child.
Over the past year, countries in the SUN movement have set themselves clear targets, scaled up programs targeting women and children, and put into place the necessary resources to begin to tackle to problem of malnutrition. At the meeting, several leaders highlighted new or intensified commitments to scale up nutrition, including:
- Peru’s First Lady, Nadine Heredia, who indicated that tackling child malnutrition is a critical pathway to breaking the cycle of poverty between generations in Peru and highlighted that the Peruvian President has signed a commitment to protect a $1 billion budget allocation for fighting child malnutrition.
- Tamar Manuelyan Atinc, World Bank Vice President for Human Development, announced that the World Bank committed to increase investments in nutrition from $100 million per year to $560 million over the next two years which would expand the Bank’s reach into 36 countries, where 70 percent of the world’s stunted children live.
- Dr. Rajiv Shah, USAID Administrator, committed to decrease stunting by 20% over five years in 14 of the 30 SUN countries: Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, Guatemala, Haiti, Malawi, Mali, Mozambique, Nepal, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda and Zambia. He also highlighted results achieved with U.S. funds to date. In Uganda, U.S. funding has meant that 50 million children received vitamin A supplementation last year, along with a 90% increase in the use of cooking fortified with Vitamin A. Collective efforts in Tanzania have encouraged the government to hire more than 100 district nutrition officers, leading teams that have the potential to reach more than 20 million people. An initiative with the Government of Bangladesh, CARE and 44 local organizations has created a 30 percent reduction in stunting for children under age five.
While progress at country-level to scale up nutrition has indeed accelerated since the SUN movement was born in 2010, the focus is now on results, results, results. From now until 2015—the next critical benchmark for the SUN movement and the year the world takes stock of its progress against the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs)—success will depend on the ability to translate political will into tangible and lasting improvements in rates of malnutrition. The road ahead will likely be a challenging one as global economic problems persist, and food price crises and climactic shocks continue to threaten progress toward curbing chronic malnutrition. This is precisely why now, more than ever, the global community must rally to mobilize unprecedented resources behind ending the “hidden disgrace” of chronic malnutrition.