By David Nabarro
Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Food Security and Nutrition
At this year’s United Nations General Assembly, the UN Secretary-General convened global leaders from government, civil society, and the private sector for the second annual high-level meeting on Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN). The meeting celebrated the SUN Movement’s progress—not just with words, but with a remarkable renewal of commitments in what has become the most harmonized effort ever undertaken to end global malnutrition.
The SUN Movement relies heavily on a fundamental belief that food and nutrition security is both a human right and the basis for economic, social, and human development. SUN places country governments at the centre of the effort, supported by a broad range of more than 100 partners representing civil society, the private sector, and international donors. The SUN Movement is open to all countries—there are no conditions for engagement.
And as demonstrated at the UNGA high-level meeting, the SUN model is working.
Just two years after its launch, 30 nations have committed themselves to the SUN framework and are engaged in remarkable efforts to strengthen nutrition for all—especially women and children. Nepal has launched a five-year multi-sector nutrition plan to reduce malnutrition among mothers and children; Kenya introduced a parliamentary bill to protect breastfeeding by more closely controlling and regulating breast milk substitutes; Sierra Leone is scaling up an integrated program that links small-holder commercialization and free health care through nutrition; and Peru has made a significant pledge towards the creation of a new national fund to fight child malnutrition.
The SUN Movement focuses on solutions that directly improve nutrition for all—such as support for breastfeeding or ensuring access to essential vitamins and minerals—as well as efforts that have a broader influence on nutrition, such as empowering women better to feed themselves and their children or improving farming practices to increase accessibility of nutrient-rich crops. Each SUN country determines the outcomes they will seek, whether that means empowering women for better access to water, sanitation, public health facilities, and nutritious foods; ; improving child growth rates; or reducing micronutrient malnutrition.
Organizations that join the SUN Movement commit themselves both to improving coverage of specific nutrition interventions and developing nutrition-sensitive strategies across all development sectors. Nutrition-sensitive agriculture and social protection, for example, are essential to enabling people to access nutritious foods all year round at an affordable price.
Ultimately, the defining feature of the SUN Movement is its focus on ensuring that all people are empowered to have more control over the way they nourish themselves and their dependents, and to take the energy from nutrients consumed to improve health, and build progress and prosperity.
The commitments made at the UNGA meeting are relevant to the work of actors across global health and development. Food and nutrition security is an under-recognized global challenge that undermines the cultural, social, and economic fabric of communities throughout the world. When a child does not receive adequate nutrition during their first 1000 days, it can cause irreversible and life-long damage, including stunting and impaired cognitive development. Multiplied across an entire nation, malnutrition can cost up to three percent of a country’s GDP. It is estimated that every dollar invested in nutrition in the first 1000 days can yield 30 dollars in return.
Today, SUN is becoming exactly what it was intended to be: a global, country-led movement that rallies all actors around smarter, more collaborative, and more impactful investments. SUN member countries recognize that they can accomplish far more together than they can alone—and that when they accelerate investments in nutrition, it results in the growth, development, and prosperity of nations and their citizens.
As the global community now looks to what will follow the Millennium Development Goals, there is an increasing number that sees the importance of nutrition. Scaling Up Nutrition will result in healthier populations, where children will have a greater ability to learn and succeed in school, and will become more productive and prosperous adults.
By making nutrition central to our efforts, we will make the health and well-being of women and children central to one of the greatest global health successes of this decade.
More information on SUN, including the full list of member countries, can be found at: www.scalingupnutrition.org