The fight against malnutrition can be won, but only with sustained political commitment
While progress for tackling global malnutrition in infants under two years old has stalled, a recent report by IDS Research Fellow Andrés Mejía Acosta, entitled Analysing Success in the Fight against Malnutrition in Peru, demonstrates that good policies supported by civil society activism and media campaigns can make a difference in reducing child undernutrition.
Showcasing successes against malnutrition
Launched in the UK this week at an event co-hosted by CARE and Action Against Hunger, the report found that economic growth alone was not responsible for Peru’s recent and accelerated decline in malnutrition.
Rather, it can be attributed to concerted effort to create and sustain political momentum through:
- civil society advocacy and coordinated campaigning; in this case, the Child Nutrition Initiative
- international donors supporting and aligning with programmes tackling malnutrition
- sustained government commitment to national coordination structures and mechanisms, increased public (and private) spending and aligning social programmes with the national nutrition strategy.
Peru's political momentum on malnutrition seems set to continue. Speaking at the event, His Excellency Hernan Couturier from the Peruvian Embassy, confirmed that the newly-elected government was committed to tackling malnutrition, hoping to eradicate it altogether over the next few years.
Manuel Sánchez-Montero, from Tripode Proyectos concurred that political will is key to tackling malnutrition. Presenting the results of a comparative analysis on five countries where infant malnutrition has declined (pdf) – Bangladesh, Brazil, Malawi, Mozambique and Peru – Manuel identified six strategies for success in tackling the problem:
- Give fighting hunger and undernutrition a high political profile
- Adopt a multi-sector approach
- Encourage civil society ownership and participation
- Adopt a multi-phase approach, combing both short and long-term approaches
- Ensure institutionalised coordination
- Continue relevant financial investment
Presenting research on West Africa, Frederic Mousseau from the Oakland Institute, discussed the benefits of a political impetus on tackling malnutrition, in the form of regional cooperation, and pointed to examples where the problem can be aggravated where cooperation breaks down, such as when Nigeria closed its borders to Niger's pastoralists.
IDS Director Lawrence Haddad concluded the event by calling for greater focus on how political processes shape malnutrition.
While nutrition policies can tend focus on technocratic solutions, such as providing food supplements, the research presented at Wednesday's event demonstrates, Haddad stated, that tackling malnutrition means finding ways to build and sustain commitment from governments and agencies.
More from IDS: development and (mal)nutrition
- On World Food Day (16 October), John Humphrey, Research Fellow with the Globalisation Team will be blogging on Globalisation and Development, arguing that "diversifying diets and ensuring that nutritious food gets to the populations that most need it is as big a challenge as producing enough calories to feed the world". He suggests that we need to explore establishing better linkages between agricultural programmes and nutrition programmes, the ways in which businesses can contribute to promoting the production and consumption of nutritious food.
- The Hunger Reduction Commitment Index, a joint project between IDS, ActionAid, Save the Children and Trocaire, aims to track whether international and national declarations and promises actually turn into action. It hopes to both help governments evaluate their own efforts and provide civil society with data needed to put pressure governments and international agencies on the delivery of programmes and services aimed at tackling hunger reduction.
- Earlier this year, we ran a series of events entitled "Changing Perceptions of Business and Development: Food for Thought" where we invited a series of speakers to explore these issues in more detail.
These included: David Lawrence, member of the UK Foresight Lead Expert Group on Food and Farming, Chris Anstey (independent consultant), Regina Moench-Pfanner, Senior Director of Nutrition Programs at the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Chris Brett, Senior Vice President Head of Corporate Responsibility and Sustainability (CRS) for Olam International, and Patti Rundall is the policy director of Baby Milk Action Group. Each link provides a description of the seminar and an audio recording of the speakers.
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