Investing in nutrition for a better future

By Juliane Friedrich and  Marian Odenigbo

In the past years, the topic of nutrition faced numerous challenges, amongst which was the lack of political will to invest in this area. This year thanks to the Global Goals and the adoption of different nutrition-related declarations such as Scaling Up Nutrition Global Gathering (SUNGG), Second International Conference on Nutrition (ICN2) and Committee on World Food Security (CFS), nutrition not only back on the agenda but also considered as a driver of the sustainable development goals. Furthermore, increasingly the development community is paying attention to the nexus between gender and nutrition.

Scaling Up Nutrition, or SUN, is a unique Movement founded on the principle that all people have a right to food and good nutrition. It unites governments, civil society, the United Nations, donors, businesses and researchers in a collective effort to improve nutrition.

Under the SUN movement 55 countries and the State of Maharashtra have committed to scaling up nutrition and working collectively as a movement to reduce the percentage of stunting. The SUN countries are home to 85 million stunted children. And this translates into 80% of the stunted children worldwide.

The fact that IFAD is investing in all the SUN countries, puts us in a vantage position to dialogue with governments and partners thus ensuring that nutrition is integrated and mainstreamed in development investments. Furthermore, considering one of the many focuses of IFAD-funded investments is addressing the needs of women farmers, we not only will be able to tackle the challenge of malnutrition at household level, but more importantly put a gender lens on nutrition and development related activities.

The onus to implement the nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive strategies and address malnutrition is on governments, as action happens on the ground and by people and not at global gatherings.

At the plenary session of the SUN Global Gathering in Milan which took place in October 2015, the participants reviewed the recent Global Nutrition Report on investment in nutrition. It was interesting to note that for every dollar invested in nutrition the return is $16. This means the benefit to scale up nutrition interventions in 40 low and middle-income countries is 16:1. Key note speakers and panelist stressed the importance of addressing teenage pregnancies because these pregnancies carry an extreme risk of underweight babies and thereby perpetuating malnutrition in the lifecycle.  

Power of good data 
In light of the increased political will on nutrition, at this year's SUN Global Gathering, participants from different governments including the parliamentarians put a lot of emphasis on availing of quality and convincing data for advocacy purposes. ‘Without data we are stuck’ said a parliamentarian from Uganda. Similarly another parliamentarian from Malawi said "If you give me good data I can make sure my country has a better nutrition programme."

Participants from the academic institutions underscored the important links between the work of policy-makers and nutrition scientists. They voiced their willingness to contribute to research and data generation for communication and advocacy purposes.

You will undoubtedly agree that over the last years we've made a lot of progress on the food security front. At the same time, we know that we need to do more and better on  collecting, compiling and collating evidence base data to show the outcome of  nutrition related interventions.
At IFAD we believe that focusing more  nutrition-related aspects will increase the impact of investments and underscore IFAD’s commitment to achieving the goal of improving nutrition and reducing poverty. It will also position IFAD as a leader in the arena of food, agriculture, and nutrition and promoting the sectors contribute to improving nutrition.  

IFAD’s focus on nutrition is not just an add-on but as an essential part of what IFAD already does and as a contributor to investment quality.  IFAD’s emphasis on nutrition and nutrition-sensitive agriculture reflects an understanding of the importance of nutrition in development and the role of food and agriculture to improve nutrition.

We must not fail! We have committed to Nutrition! By joining forces we shall make zero stunting a reality!