The world is currently off-track to achieving the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030. For the first time in over a decade, the number of people going hungry has increased to 815 million.
However, more than twice this figure (around 2 billion) are malnourished. Unless urgent action is taken to address and prevent malnutrition, progress towards at least 12 of the 17 SDGs will be undermined. This World Food Day, all countries need to assess their efforts towards not just addressing hunger, but malnutrition that threatens the survival, growth, and economic potential of individuals and economies all over the world.
There is ample evidence on effective solutions to improve nutrition, with growing evidence on the wider underlying factors. And yet, currently 155 million children are too short for their age (stunted), 52 million are too thin for their height (wasted), and hundreds of millions of women and children are anaemic. At the same time, overweight and obesity are growing rapidly. Malnutrition is a critical contributor to ill-health, vulnerability, and poverty.
The UK government has been demonstrating commendable leadership in tackling global malnutrition since 2010 when the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement was launched. Following that, in 2013, the UK government hosted the first Nutrition for Growth summit, where DFID announced a tripling of its nutrition investments. And in 2015, the UK Government made a commitment “to improve nutrition for 50 million people who would otherwise go hungry by 2020”. This commitment was far more ambitious than anything previously made for two reasons: firstly, they promised to reach a further 30 million people than before over the same five-year period, and secondly, they promised to improve nutrition of people, rather than simply reaching people with an intervention.
In 2016, DFID published a methodology based on the level of impact their nutrition programmes will have, measuring them as high, medium, or low intensity. High intensity programmes would deliver the greatest impact by implementing a package of direct nutrition interventions (“specific”) with interventions across sectors such as agriculture, WASH, education, social protection, and health (“sensitive”) to target groups most vulnerable to nutrition (women, girls, and children). Medium intensity programmes will deliver either targeted nutrition-specific or nutrition-sensitive programmes. Low intensity programmes, however, would deliver a “sensitive” programme but not necessarily in a focused manner. DFID is yet to report against this new methodology to assess how many of the 50 million people have been reached by high, medium or low intensity programmes but have assured civil society that this will be an annual process as of 2018.
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As the above information is still not publicly available, Concern Worldwide (UK), RESULTS UK, WaterAid (UK), and Action Against Hunger (UK) analysed DFID’s nutrition-relevant programmes to assess the potential for these programmes to deliver the highest possible nutrition impact, thus meeting their 50 million-target. A total of 55 programmes, including nutrition, WASH, Agriculture, and Health sectors were reviewed to assess whether these could be classified as high, medium, or low intensity.
The analysis and findings are documented in the report “From Investment to Impact: Meeting DFID’s 50 million commitment on nutrition” [PDF]. Based on the analysis, this report concludes that:
- “High intensity” programmes have the maximum nutrition impact, and should thus be prioritised;
- There are some “missed opportunities”. These are programmes which currently can be classified as medium intensity but with the potential to be improved to high intensity through improved design and delivery;
- A typical “low intensity” programme should not count towards DFID’s 50 million commitment; owing to a lack of specificity, accountability, and meaningful nutrition impact; and
- DFID must start publishing an annual breakdown of the number of women, girls, and children who are met with high, medium or low intensity programmes, with data on their contribution to reaching the poorest and most marginalised groups.
At the World Bank’s Human Capital Summit on Friday, DFID’s secretary of state, Priti Patel, launched their new Global Nutrition Position Paper [PDF], which will guide their policy and programme priorities and nutrition-related investments until 2020. A very comprehensive and useful document, it is now time to implement the policy priorities as outlined in this paper through smart programmes and partnerships with multiple stakeholders, including with civil society.
To deliver the highest possible nutrition impact and drive individual, national, and global progress it is hoped that DFID will consider the recommendations of this report going forward. Well-designed and targeted programmes that intend to leave no one behind, that are integrated to include nutrition-specific as well as -sensitive approaches, and, finally, that measure the impact achieved transparently, can drive the greatest improvements for nutrition. By scaling-up these efforts, the UK can make a more meaningful contribution to the goal to end malnutrition by 2030.