Since the 2013 summit in London, ‘Nutrition for Growth’ or #N4G has become a name many of us are familiar with. This successful event brought together donors, governments, businesses, civil society organisations and philanthropists together for a largely neglected cause – malnutrition. The UK government, Brazil and Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) along with other participants brought nutrition back to the forefront of development efforts. However, is it important that this momentum is not lost over time.
Nutrition is a critical driver of growth. Growth for children who will be physically healthy, and are able to reach the heights that they should irrespective of their geography, ethnicity, or income status. Growth for children, whose minds will develop the right way from womb to adulthood, so they are able to make the most of school and education, understand their world and respond to it. Growth for children, adolescents, and adults who will achieve their full potential by leading a life free from frequent illness, complete schooling, thus achieving their aspirations and securing employment to earn a proper living, and finally, growth for nations which won’t lose out through lost human potential, increased healthcare costs for a frequently ill population, and millions of children and women dying untimely deaths. Good nutrition is an absolute necessity for individuals, and nations, to grow.
This year, the global community expected a follow up summit from 2013.This was agreed at N4G, to host one alongside the Rio Olympics, but also in light of new commitments such as the SDG target on ‘ending malnutrition in all its forms’, and the endorsement of a ‘Decade of Action on Nutrition’ which will be launched this July by the Food and Agriculture Organization and the World Health Organization. Moreover, more countries are increasingly recognising the toll that malnutrition takes and scaling up efforts to address it. However, the current political situation in Brazil makes the possibility of a summit like 2013 in Rio, a difficult proposition.
Can we risk nutrition falling off the global radar once again? How can anyone tackle a problem without investing time and resources in it? Without sound policies to guide those investments and timely assessments of progress and gaps, how can we guide future efforts? It has been three years since the last N4G and we need another summit now more than ever, to take stock of what has been done and what needs to be done henceforth.
Recent estimates led by the World Bank, Results for Development, and 1000 days show that an additional USD 7 billion a year is required over the next ten years for us to be able to achieve the World Health Assembly nutrition targets. A new Generation Nutrition report launched today highlights that a significant chunk of 2013 funding commitments are yet to be dispersed and that the current rate of progress we will not be able to achieve these targets. It makes recommendations to all stakeholders on action needed to scale up progress on nutrition.
The World Bank estimates seem huge, but imagine the colossal losses incurred should we refrain from investing now. Donors, governments, philanthropists, businesses and civil society organisations must come together once again to deliver another successful summit, and soon. As we celebrate the third anniversary of N4G, I realise that we don’t need a moment to make it an opportunity. June 8th was just one day until it became #N4G. What we need is intent, and it is now time for world leaders to show their intent and commitment to ensuring we end malnutrition by 2030 and to ensuring that all children grow how they should – healthy, and happy.