Analysis: REGINALD NTOMBA
THROUGHOUT history there came a time when nations resolved to galvanise efforts to confront a problem seen as threatening the wellbeing of humanity.
We have seen such energies in tackling HIV and AIDS, climate change, poverty and conflict, among others.
Such was also the case in 2010 when nations realised and agreed that, unless dealt with, malnutrition would continue to undermine national and global development.
So began a great awakening among development actors through a movement known as Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN). The movement comprises governments, civil society, the United Nations, donors, private sector and academia in a collective action to improve nutrition.
The SUN Movement comprises 59 countries. Zambia joined on December 22, 2010 with a letter of commitment from the Minister of Health.
The movement’s vision is ‘By 2030, a world free from malnutrition in all its forms’. Achieving this requires collective action to ensure every child, adolescent, mother and family can realise their right to food and nutrition, reach their full potential and shape sustainable and prosperous societies.
This global call to action is encapsulated in the 2016-2020 SUN Movement Strategy and Roadmap which enjoins every member country to take steps that contribute to the realisation of the vision.
Among them, by 2020 SUN countries will have nutrition plans and actions that guide collective implementation and resource allocation; regularly and transparently track budget allocations against plans; and increase resources for nutrition from both domestic and external sources.
“This strategy presents a practical vision of how we can work together for an end to malnutrition by 2030,” noted then UN secretary-general, Ban Ki- Moon, while launching the plan.
“By sharing experiences, overcoming challenges and showing results, the countries of the SUN Movement are demonstrating that together, we can ensure that people everywhere will get the best possible start in life and reach their full potential.”
But global plans and strategies mean nothing if not localised and translated into practical interventions that positively impact individuals and communities. In Zambia, the National Food and Nutrition Commission (NFNC) is the convening body coordinating multi-sectoral action on nutrition.
Working with several line ministries and civil society organisations, the NFNC is implementing the First 1,000 Most Critical Days Programme (FMCDP) aimed at reducing stunting in children under two. The first 1,000 days is the period between conception and a child’s second birthday. It is critical because beyond that, stunting is irreversible and the consequences thereof are dire.
Being a cross-cutting issue, nutrition requires the participation of many players. Thus within the governmental structure, the NFNC is working with the ministries of Health, Agriculture, Livestock and Fisheries, Community Development and Social Services, Local Government, and Water, Sanitation and Environmental Protection to address the immediate and underlying causes of malnutrition.
These entities are all important because, for instance, even if people have access to food, if they drink dirty water and live in poor sanitary conditions, their nutrition will still be compromised. That is why nutrition is an agenda beyond food.
The SUN Movement is organised around four global networks, each contributing towards achieving a reduction in malnutrition.
Promoting nutrition requires an enormous amount of resources, financial, technical or otherwise. The SUN Donor Network bands agencies, foundations and financial institutions who are aligning financial and technical assistance to support SUN countries, and increasing overall funding for nutrition.
As producers, manufacturers and suppliers of food, the private sector have a role in improving nutrition as their actions can influence whether the masses consume healthy foods or not. So the SUN Business Network aims to reduce malnutrition in all its forms through mobilising business institutions to invest and innovate in responsible and sustainable actions and operations.
Leveraging its global presence, the United Nations (UN) Network comprises UN agencies that have a role in nutrition. The UN Network is responsible for alignment and coordination of their support to SUN countries, harmonising UN policies and strategies for support to improving nutrition and working in harmony.
The Civil Society Network includes hundreds of national and international organisations including farmers, human rights activists, women’s groups, humanitarian and development agencies, consumer groups, and labour unions. In Zambia, the CSO-SUN Alliance is part of the global network raising awareness and advocating for increased investment in nutrition.
Academia and research networks are incubators of knowledge and can generate relevant data to assist in providing innovative solutions to address challenges in achieving nutrition security.
For instance, the University of Zambia (UNZA) School of Agriculture has done a pilot study in Samfya district on training community health workers to improve child growth monitoring and promotion in Zambian rural health centres. The School of Medicine has undertaken a study in Northern, Eastern and Western provinces to determine the compliance and early uptake of iron and folic acid among pregnant women.
The size and number of entities involved in promoting nutrition says something about the enormity of the task at hand.
What are you doing to advance the nutrition agenda?
The author is Nutrition Learning Hub Coordinator at CARE International in Zambia.