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How can global nutrition be improved?
The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) put the number of people suffering from hunger world-wide at less than 800 million in late May 2015. In comparison to the report period from 1990 to 1992, the number dropped by 216 million to 795 million people. According to FAO Director General José Graziano da Silva, the first steps have been taken towards eliminating hunger world-wide within a lifetime.
While hunger and nutrient deficiencies above all affect the countries of the South, more and more people in the industrialised countries and emerging economies are suffering from over-nutrition. In spite of this, the word “nutrition” crops up only once in the 169 targets of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), as Lawrence Haddad of the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) noted presenting the “Global Nutrition Report (GNR) 2014“ in Berlin/Germany. Undernutrition and malnutrition were a global problem that could be tackled. The GNR therefore referred to 80 indicators in a sort of technical manual on how to get out of the nutrition crisis. Haddad said that nearly every country had a nutrition problem. No individual country could guarantee that it had secured healthy nutrition. But nearly every country also had successful concepts to assume responsibility for healthy nutrition.
Learning from the success of others
For instance, the Indian Federal State of Maharashtra had succeeded in lowering the percentage of people with nutrition-conditioned maldevelopments from 37 to 24 per cent in just seven years. Here, success is based on a multifactorial approach comprising the training of food counsellors, food aid and poverty reduction measures. By referring to “nutrition champions”, the GNR provides verifiable parameters for direct intervention, seeking to elevate the topic of malnutrition from a local to a global base. The principle is that of learning from one another. For example, Georgia provides 99 per cent of its population with iodine-enriched cooking salt, while Pakistan has secured the same percentage of vitamin A supply in the first 60 months of life, and Nicaragua’s Folat programme ensures that 79 per cent of pregnant women get enough iron from the 90th day on.
In order for success to increase, the public and the private sector needed to co-operate, maintained Thomas Silberhorn, State Secretary at the German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ). Impetus for this partnership ahead of the summits on climate and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) was more favourable than ever. Joachim von Braun, Director of the Center for Development Research (ZEF) in Bonn, Germany, calls for new alliances such as the “Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition” (GAIN), which addresses the topic with nutrient-enriched food as well as programmes for micronutrient supply.
The GNR does not show the ideal way for all countries and goals. But it refers responsibility to the local agenda, which touches on several policy fields in a cross-sector approach. Emorn Udomkesmalee of the Institute of Nutrition of the University of Thailand described success in his country that can be solely attributed neither to the Health Ministry nor to the Ministry of Agriculture.
Owing to its cross-sector importance, the topic of “nutrition” need not be formulated as a goal in its own right in the SDGs, Tom Arnold, who has been coordinator of the “Scaling up Nutrition” (SUN) initiative since 2014, suggested referring to Haddad’s introductory remark. However, it had to be ensured a subtle presence in all the Sustainability Goals. “There is no security without food security,” Stefan Schmitz, Commissioner of the BMZ Special Initiative “One World – No Hunger” emphasised. The economic crisis of 2008/09 had put the topic of food security back on the political agenda, and it had already assumed a prominent role in the development debate.
A shift to the cities
Against the background of the GNR, Lawrence Haddad referred to the latest development at the Berlin event. With so many people migrating to the cities, the issue of hunger and malnutrition was gradually moving from the rural areas to the urban centres. Here, the news item fits in that on the day the GNR was presented, the FAO signed an agreement on the reduction of food wastage with the World Union of Wholesale Markets in Budapest/Hungary. Huge amounts of food are traded on the wholesale markets and are often also thrown away. There is a lack of data on marketing processes and what is lost during storage and transportation. However, such data would be needed to establish the amount of waste and to develop sensible measures to avoid it. This is a global problem that can be solved at a very local level, and very much in line with the GNR intervention.
Roland Krieg, journalist, Berlin/Germany