Publication [ID: 127]

From promise to impact – the global nutrition report 2016

In June 2016, the Global Nutrition Report was released. The report is an independent and comprehensive annual stocktake of the state of the world’s nutrition. It documents the world’s progress in combating malnutrition, and it identifies best practice examples and actions to accelerate that progress and fill existing gaps.

This year’s third edition of the report focuses on the theme of making and measuring (SMART) commitments to nutrition and what it will take to end malnutrition in all its forms by 2030. These are the crucial trends identified by the report.

The world is off track to reach global targets – but there is hope

The report concludes that the world is off track to attain targets for nutrition: one in three people worldwide suffers from malnutrition in some form. Malnutrition and poor diets constitute the number-one driver of the global burden of disease. While many countries are on course to meet targets to reduce stunted growth and the number of underweight children, levels of undernutrition –including stunting and anemia- remain alarmingly high, particularly in fragile context. At the same time almost half of all countries now face the so-called ‘double burden’ of malnutrition - high rates in both undernutrition and overweight are increasingly posing a global challenge and very few countries are making progress on tackling obesity and associated illnesses. Despite these challenges, the report shows that progress has been made, and is possible. It also indicates that modest changes could put many countries on course to meet global targets.

Nutrition is central to the Sustainable Development Goals

At least 12 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals contain indicators that are highly relevant for nutrition, reflecting nutrition’s central role in sustainable development. Good nutrition creates a cascade of benefits that improve health, education, employment and women’s empowerment, and reduce poverty and inequality. In turn, these factors all have an important impact on nutrition outcomes. The report shows that women’s power and status constitute a particularly important driver of malnutrition: It is thus important to incorporate nutrition targets into development and social sectors.

Current commitments do not match the need

Malnutrition is chronically underfunded and requires a three-fold increase if we’re to end the crisis. In many countries governments allocate just 2 percent of spending to reducing undernutrition. Donors’ allocations to nutrition-specific interventions are stagnating at $1 billion, although donor allocations to nutrition through other development and social sectors are increasing.

SMART commitments and targets matter

The report finds that donors and governments that prioritized nutrition in their policy documents spent more on nutrition. Businesses with stronger commitments to nutrition have a stronger ability to support nutrition. Countries that set undernutrition targets also reduce stunting faster. Despite this, analysis shows that when countries have set targets, only two-thirds of them are specific, measurable, achievable, relevant and time bound (SMART). Making SMART commitments to nutrition would plot a different development trajectory for countries across the world.

Data is not telling the whole story

The report supports the call for a data revolution for nutrition. There is a major lack of data to tell us what is and isn’t working, whom to target and how to reach them. While in many cases these data exist, they aren’t readily available. This hampers efforts to reduce global malnutrition and hides inequalities within countries. The report recommends disaggregating data to better understand where malnutrition exists.

We must move beyond talk to action

The report calls for more money and political commitment to address the problem. It says for every $1 spent on proven nutrition programmes, $16 worth of benefits ensue. Core policies and programs that promote breastfeeding are seriously lagging and the scale-up of direct programs for undernutrition has been slow and inequitable. It emphasizes the need to dramatically strengthen the implementation of both policies and programs. Mechanisms to coordinate actions across sectors are key to successful implementation, but to make a difference they must be backed by high-level support and human and financial resources.

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