2016 Global Nutrition Report calls for increased political commitment

Indonesian preschoolers receive nutritious meals through the national government’s Early Childhood Education and Development Program. Erly Tatontos/World Bank.

By Jordan Teague, Bread for the World Institute

The third annual Global Nutrition Report was launched today. Each Global Nutrition Report documents progress on global nutrition commitments and makes recommendations to accelerate that progress.

This year’s report, titled From Promise to Impact: Ending Malnutrition by 2030, comes at just the right time, because 2016 is a critical year for nutrition. It is the first year of the global effort to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which include ending hunger and all forms of malnutrition. 2016 is also the start of the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition, and new analysis on how much it will cost to reach global nutrition targets has just been released. The world is poised to make a huge amount of progress against malnutrition over the next 15 years.

From Promise to Impact reports that the world is currently off-track to meet the global nutrition targets. If national governments, donors, and communities continue their “business as usual” approach to setting political priorities, allocating funding, and implementing programs, malnutrition will continue to affect hundreds of millions of people, mainly women and children. However, there is hope! Many countries are on track to meet these goals for themselves. We also have proven strategies to help others get back on track.

The plain fact is that the world must invest more resources in nutrition if we are to end malnutrition by 2030. Current funding commitments do not match the need – not those of donors such as the U.S. government, and not those of country governments themselves. This year’s Global Nutrition Report notes that, on average, low- and middle-income countries allocate just 2.1 percent of their national budgets to improving nutrition. Globally, donors’ contribution have remained stagnant at approximately $1 billion.

The World Bank and partners have estimated, however, that reaching a set of nutrition targets agreed by the World Health Assembly (e.g., reducing childhood stunting by 40 percent by 2025) will require an annual investment of $7 billion total, from all sources. Even more funding will be needed to end malnutrition altogether. The 2016 Global Nutrition Report projects that governments and donors will need to triple their commitments to nutrition over the next 10 years.

It’s also important to allocate spending in ways that make the best use of the resources available. Significant progress can come through ensuring that programs in other sectors of development — agriculture, water and sanitation, social protection, education, health systems, and the like — are intentionally focused on improving nutrition. Budgets in these sectors should allocate more resources to such “nutrition-sensitive” programs.

Ultimately, improving nutrition means making political choices — both choices to devote more resources to nutrition, and choices to create and fully implement nutrition-focused policies across development sectors. Political commitment to improving nutrition can make a rapid and substantial difference in malnutrition. From Promise to Impact uses examples of progress in Peru, Ghana, and India’s Maharashtra State to show the impact of national and regional government commitment. These governments and their partners not only made political commitments to improve nutrition, but kept them.

The 2016 Global Nutrition Report is not “good news” since it reports that the world is off-track to meet nutrition goals. But it’s “potential good news,” because the evidence shows that not only are many countries on track, but that others can join them by marshalling the political will to increase investments and to make and keep effective policies.

Jordan Teague is the international policy analyst for food security and nutrition at Bread for the World Institute.

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