Working in partnership to beat undernutrition

June has been an exciting month for nutrition! It has shown what can be achieved when partners come together to tackle a difficult but ultimately solvable problem like ending undernutrition.

Global Health Advocates and RESULTS UK are part of the ACTION Global Health Advocacy Partnership. We work together to influence policy and mobilise resources to end undernutrition and other global health problems such as tuberculosis, and vaccine-preventable childhood illnesses. Recently we worked with our partners to produce a Nutrition Scorecard which enables civil society to ‘Follow the funding for Nutrition’ and see which donors are on track to meeting their 2013 Nutrition for Growth commitments.

This month we’ve seen encouraging signs that donors are also increasingly working in tandem to put nutrition higher on the global agenda. At the European Development Days in Brussels at the start of June, Melinda Gates announced that The Gates Foundation would double its investments in nutrition to $776 million over the next six years.

Melinda stated that for too long the world has underinvested in nutrition. She said “Along with the Gates Foundation, many European donors are now prioritizing nutrition, which we believe will be one of the fundamental solutions to help cut child mortality in half by 2030.” This is really welcome news for nutrition.

She also highlighted that “investment in data is key” as nearly half of all countries worldwide don’t have access to the data needed to track nutrition baselines and the status of those undernourished. The newly announced €23.5 million EU-Gates foundation partnership to establish National Information Platforms for Nutrition is an encouraging step towards bridging the data gap.

This announcement from the Gates Foundation and the new investment of 123 million USD by the Government of Canada, has also resulted in the UK government unlocking £156.5 million, i.e. more than 50% of its matched funding commitment of £280 million made at the Nutrition for Growth Summit in 2013. This is a good example of donors working collectively and leveraging a greater impact for their money.

The EU also made an ambitious pledge of 3,5 billion EUR at Nutrition for Growth but should commit to an accelerated disbursement to meet that target by 2020. The National Information Platform on Nutrition will play a key role in ensuring the effectiveness of EU nutrition policies and help meet targets. Accurate data on nutrition will help us gauge the impact of both nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive investments in-country and understand what works on the ground. This is much needed for the EU to meet its target of reducing stunting by 7 million by 2025.

At the EU level, the Generation Nutrition campaign is actively working not only to ensure that the necessary funding is available to tackle acute malnutrition, but also to advocate for effective and equitable nutrition policies. As the world’s largest donor, it is essential to maximise the potential of the EU’s investment in nutrition by actually disbursing committed funds and measuring their impact.

Generation Nutrition EU recently developed two new publications on nutrition and the EU’s nutrition policy to ensure that the European Union continues to play an active role in meeting global nutrition targets. The first publication is a background document on key issues related to undernutrition which should equip stakeholders with a general understanding of the topic. The second publication scrutinises the EU’s nutrition policy and identifies gaps.

There are two key gaps that have been identified. Firstly, the EC tackles one form of malnutrition (stunting) while neglecting another (wasting), thereby undermining its efforts to fight malnutrition globally. Secondly, the EC’s policies are weakened by the fact that insufficient dialogue takes place between Directorate-Generals (departments in the European Commission), preventing the integration of nutrition-sensitive measures into all policies.  Generation Nutrition EU, of which RESULTS UK and GHA form part, is committed to addressing those gaps and pushing for change at the highest political level.

We also saw an ambitious statement from Germany at the G7 summit, pledging to reduce the number of hungry people by 500 million by 2030. However CSOs are questioning the means of achieving this target because of the lack of a financial pledge linked to this announcement, alongside the need for increased clarity regarding role of the private sector.

Nonetheless, these recent announcements have been a great build up to a potential Nutrition Summit in 2016 in Rio, which will be an opportunity to assess progress and serve as a key opportunity for further funding pledges from countries which have already been champions for nutrition, like the UK, and also those who could step up and make a big difference, such as France.

Now it is time to work together and ensure these positive announcements become concrete actions for improving poor nutrition in groups such as women and children. We know that undernourished women give birth to undernourished children with hindered physical and cognitive growth, trapping them in a cycle of ill-health and poverty.  This is something a recent infographic on anaemia from RESULTS UK highlights. We must work together with donors, countries and civil society networks such as the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement to scale up the impact of investments in nutrition.

The publications can be found here: Nutrition  and EU Nutrition Policy

Authors: Vanessa Boas GHA France and Anna Gelderd RESULTS UK