Analysis: REGINALD NTOMBA
ON APRIL 1, 2016, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution declaring 2016-2025 a UN Decade of Action on Nutrition.
This followed a recommendation by the Rome Declaration resulting from the Second International Conference on Nutrition held in Rome in November 2014.
The Decade of Action aims to stimulate the effective translation of various global commitments such as the Sustainable Development Goals and World Health Assembly targets into concrete, nationally-determined policies and programmes.
“This resolution places nutrition at the heart of sustainable development and recognises that improving food security and nutrition are essential to achieving the entire 2030 Agenda,” says Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) Director-General José Graziano da Silva.
The Decade of Action is seen as offering a unique opportunity to all countries and stakeholders to unite around a common framework and to increase the visibility, coordination, efficiency and effectiveness of nutrition action at all levels across the world.
But what’s the fuss about nutrition?
The statistics are stark – and more importantly, these are not just numbers but lives. According to the UN, nearly 800 million people globally remain chronically undernourished and 159 million children under five years of age are stunted – meaning they are too short for their age. Approximately 50 million children under five years of age are wasted – meaning they have low weight for their height. Another 1.9 billion people are overweight, 600 million of whom are obese.
“Children can’t fully reap the benefits of schooling if they don’t get the nutrients they need; and emerging economies won’t reach their full potential if their workers are chronically tired because their diets are unbalanced. That’s why we welcome the Decade of Action on Nutrition and look forward to helping make it a success,” notes the FAO chief.
Given the far-reaching implications of poor diets on individuals and economies, it is only logical that the global organisation is leading efforts to tackle malnutrition. It is an issue needing the highest level of political commitment.
Several governments have already smelt the coffee and awakened to the need to invest in nutrition and have incorporated nutrition in their national development plans. The Decade of Action is therefore expected to act both as a catalyst for action and as a reminder not to take the eyes off the ball.
The FAO and the World Health Organisation have been charged to lead the implementation of the Decade of Action in collaboration with the World Food Programme (WFP), the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) to identify and develop a work programme based on the Rome Declaration and its Framework for Action.
Governments and other stakeholders, including international and regional organisations, civil society, the private sector and academia, have been invited to actively support the implementation of the Decade of Action including through voluntary contributions.
As part of the monitoring mechanism, the UN Secretary- General is required to report to the General Assembly biennially on progress.
In the UN scheme of things, International Decades have been used over the years to draw attention to particular issues requiring a global, collective effort.
For instance, the UN Decade for Women (1975 – 1985) aimed to promote equal rights and opportunities for women and is regarded to have contributed a great deal to pushing the agenda on women’s rights.
There are six International Decades currently running on a variety of issues.
It is hoped that the Decade of Action on Nutrition will, through the efforts of various stakeholders, contribute to improving the global nutritional status.
The author is Coordinator of the Nutrition Learning Hub at CARE International in Zambia.