2014 Partners' Forum
30 JUNE - 1 JULY | Sandton Convention Centre, Johannesburg, South Africa
Session 2E: Addressing the Nutrition needs in a Post-2015 Agenda
Achieving food security and optimal nutrition within the post-2015 development agenda will require anticipating the challenges we will be faced with; identifying solutions to emerging problems; recognizing a new nutrition landscape; taking stock of our lessons learned; and engaging stakeholders including the youth and the private sector in new roles.
While we have made gains in the reduction of stunting and wasting, we recognize there still is a long way to go. For example, as Dr. Mugoi presented, in countries like Mozambique, one in two children remains stunted, and paradoxically the province with the highest food production is also the one with the highest prevalence of stunting. This is not isolated to Mozambique, and similar statistics are found in other African countries. It is imperative that we recognize that this issue is not just about food or food production and availability; there are other factors in the spheres of education, social interaction, environmental hygiene, and others that should also be considered.
Iron deficiency and anemia –which is consequence of many other reasons beyond iron deficiency- in women remains high, and as Mr. Wientjes presented, there is clear evidence that the brains of malnourished children at the age of three are significantly metabolically impaired than that of a healthy child.
There is also the emerging threat of child obesity --impacting the rich and poor alike, world-wide. Without action, as the world population increases, there will be increases in malnourished children –both for deficiencies and for excesses- in absolute terms.
Several key themes emerged and any solution, as Dr. Mungoi mentioned, will have to be sustainable, applying through a holistic approach where there is strong collaboration amongst all stakeholders. Dr. Naidoo emphasized a central theme of the conference that focusing on women is going to be key to the success given their natural roles (childbirth, child rearing, nurturing, and other functions). Additionally, as Ms. Watson indicated, focusing on the “1,000 days” (from pregnancy to the second year of child’s life) is important, but looking beyond that time frame is also critical not only for health impact, but respect, education and dignity. However, while implementing actions, we have to be cautious of not creating new problems, particularly taking into account our changing lifestyles and environments.
There is incredible momentum for nutrition at this very moment. Nutrition has moved beyond a charitable response and has evolved to both a rights-based and economic-based argument as Mr. Wientjes suggested. With over 53 countries committed to SUN, we must carry on with the “radical transformation”, Ms. Watson stated. We have to capitalize on this window of opportunity in a world with many competing agendas and must ensure that nutrition stays at the forefront.
Elemental to future success, will be transitioning ownership to countries and national governments who are experiencing the nutrition challenges first hand. Moving beyond commitments and holding each other accountable to actual implementation is critical. Mr. Wientjes stated that we have big problems and we need big solutions; and we need to stop our small pilots and looking at scaling up. He highlighted a Royal DSM’s partnership with the World Food Programme. Dr. Lutter emphasized that linking nutrition-specific to nutrition sensitive actions are key—particularly nutrition-sensitive agriculture.
Beyond this, presenters suggested that there also seems to be a disconnect between nutritious food and how accessible they are to the nutritionally vulnerable, as well as coordination between the demand and supply of food production. While there is sufficient food production in the world, many children still go to sleep hungry. Dr. Lutter emphasized that only a small proportion of children meet the minimum 4 of 7 food groups per day and that more effort and research needs to focus on a diversified diet. She mentioned that we should focus on the improvement on the diet and not making communities depending on lipid-based spreads, which are easy but temporal and difficult to sustain solutions. She said that we need to get back to agriculture, balancing cash crops against what individuals grow for their own consumption. All of this suggests the need for a big tent, multi-sectoral approach where there are common goals and when structures exist, we must ensure that they function.
Any solution will necessarily have to involve a role for the private sector. Presenters explained that there has to be an openness to negotiate, while identifying conflicts of interest in a multi-stakeholder environment. Mr. Wientjes further elaborated that society and individuals also have some control by “choice-influencing” and that we need to demand that nutritious products become the aspirational products. Governments will also have a role in “choice editing” on what is available in the market.
Overall, we have a complicated challenge ahead of us and a healthier and more equitable world will require the ownership of problems by national governments; harnessing the efficiencies and sustainability of the private sector; working across multiple sectors and perspectives towards a common goal with a coordinated and holistic approach; engaging new audiences, particularly the youth; and at the end, holding each other to account for action.