This website uses cookies to ensure a better browsing experience; in addition to technical cookies, third-party cookies are also used. To learn more and become familiar with the cookies used, please visit the Cookies page.
By continuing to browse this site, you automatically consent to the use of cookies


Good news: African governments are seriously stepping up their fight against malnutrition

Economy / -

© GAIN Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition

As we approach the deadline of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), we can observe that significant progress has been made toward achieving this set of targets over the last decade. Despite this progress, malnutrition still represents one of the main challenges the planet is facing today and has devastating socio-economic consequences for all countries tackling the complex issue of malnutrition in all its forms. Governance in the nutrition sector plays a key role in driving and sustaining efforts against the multiple causes of malnutrition.

As we approach the deadline of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), we can observe that significant progress has been made toward achieving this set of targets over the last decade. The latest State of Food Insecurity in the World report shows that  a total of 72 developing countries out of 129 have reached the MDG 1c hunger target and, for the developing regions as a whole, the prevalence of undernourishment, along with the proportion of underweight children under 5 years of age, have declined.

The great challenge of undernutrition
Despite this progress, the burden of undernutrition still affects 795 million people in the world, including 161 million stunted children. Malnourished children tend to start school later, have poorer levels of concentration and lower scores in cognitive ability tests; they are unable to reach their full potential and this burden continues throughout their lives. This represents one of the main challenges the planet is facing today and has devastating socio-economic consequences for all countries tackling the complex issue of malnutrition in all its forms. 

Countries and the Governance in the nutrition sector. The example of Ethiopia.
So, why are some countries succeeding in reaching the international hunger targets, while others are falling behind? Humanitarian crises and political unrest are not the only causes that prevent countries from falling short. Lack of credible and sustained political commitment to tackle the issue of malnutrition also negatively contributed to this outcome. Governance in the nutrition sector plays a key role in driving and sustaining efforts against the multiple causes of malnutrition – a key finding of the Global Nutrition Report 2014.
A good example of a government that demonstrates strong political will and commitment against undernutrition is in Ethiopia. Historically, conflicts, droughts and other periodic humanitarian crises have caused high levels of food insecurity in the country and the consequent rise of chronic malnutrition rates among the population. To face these complicated challenges, since the early 2000s the government of Ethiopia has been focusing on eradicating poverty through a comprehensive economic reform programme. In addition, the government incorporated nutrition into its most recent five year transformation plan, the Growth and Transformation Plan, which has as key objectives ensuring high economic growth and achieving the MDGs.
Following the launch of the National Guidelines for Control and Prevention of Micronutrient Deficiencies in 2004, the government decided to strengthen further its commitment to end undernutrition by adopting the first National Nutrition Programme (NNP) in 2008, which was subsequently revised in 2013. 
GAIN has been supporting these efforts, particularly through the Universal Salt Iodization Partnership Project in partnership with UNICEF and in conjunction with the Micronutrient Initiative. At the start of this partnership project in 2008, only a small percentage of households had access to adequately iodized salt and iodine deficiency was a major public health problem leading to mental impairment. Recent findings show that the availability of adequately iodized salt in Ethiopia is rapidly increasing. The 2014 National Micronutrient Survey found that the presence of iodine in salt had increased from 15 percent in 2011 to 95 percent. Adequate iodine levels were also up to 43 percent in 2011 compared to 5 percent in 2009. The Food, Medicine and Health Care Administration and Control Authority of Ethiopia (FMHACA) reports that household coverage of iodized salt is continuously increasing, attesting significant associated health benefits.
Since 2011, GAIN has also supported the government in the micronutrient fortification of wheat flour and oil through developing national food standards, and recently started formative research to explore the appropriateness of national distribution of micronutrient powders or home fortification in rural Ethiopia.

A successful case in terms of public health
The public health measures put in place by the Government of Ethiopia have proven to be successful. A recent government survey showed a decline in stunting among children from 57.8 percent in 2000 to 40 percent in 2014, and a drop in the prevalence of underweight over the same period from 42.1 percent to 25 percent. Additionally, the government  made significant progress in tackling poverty with a 33 percent reduction in the share of people living under the poverty line between 2000 and 2011 . 
At the recent Financing for Development Conference held in Addis Ababa on 14-16 July, the government of Ethiopia took the opportunity to reiterate its willingness to break the cycle of poverty and malnutrition. On this occasion, the government adopted the Seqota declaration, which aims to end child undernutrition in Ethiopia by 2030. Named after a region in Northern Ethiopia that has been one of the most food insecure areas in the country, the Seqota declaration represents a reference and a reminder to raise awareness against child undernutrition. GAIN, together with the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), the Micronutrient Initiative (MI) and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation (BMGF), welcomed this commitment from the government, as it recognizes that that ending malnutrition is essential to achieving sustainable development, and strongly supported the declaration at its launch ceremony on 15 July. This is a strong example of how government action can help shape nutrition policies to promote nutritious foods for the population, and at the same time effectively engage other stakeholders.

The commitment of the other African countries against malnutrition
Ethiopia is not the only African country stepping up against malnutrition. The government of Tanzania is also taking the lead in this fight. At a recent Scale Up Nutrition Movement meeting in Daar es Salam, President Kikwete presented remarkable results in reducing stunting by 18 percent since 2010, and called for effective nutrition funding and private sector involvement in the nutrition agenda.  Moreover, from 9 to 11 September 2015, the government of Tanzania and GAIN will co-host the first Global Summit on Food Fortification #FutureFortified as part of a global effort to reinvigorate interest, awareness and investment in food fortification. Other co-conveners include the African Union, BMGF, USAID, UNICEF,  and the World Food Programme .
It is impressive to see these African governments leading by example, but we need to keep momentum going. Leveraging these efforts, in order to stimulate commitment from more governments, will be essential if we are really serious and committed on the global platform to reach the upcoming sustainable development goals and to keep nutrition high on the development agenda now and in the future.

Five questions for Ev-K2-CNR. Preserving a national park in Pakistan while opening up to world markets

Innovation / -

While these high-altitude terrains are difficult to reach, the project has achieved some good results as well as having successfully involved the local population. The experts of the Karakorum area of the Ev-K2-CNR initiative supply answers to our questions.

At Expo Milano 2015, visitors will be made aware of Ev-K2-CNR project thanks to the photo-story displayed in Pavilon Zero. What message would you like to convey with your approach to the issue of food security?
We would like people to understand that this topic, albeit important, cannot be seen as a stand-alone issue, but needs to be addressed in the context of a wider strategy linked to the sustainable use of renewable energy in a given area. Only in this fashion is it possible to guarantee that the benefits achieved will be so in the long term.

What difficulties have you encountered while working on your project? What have you had to change with respect to the original plan?
The major difficulties occurred when we tried to share the project with the local communities, in preparation for setting up managing committees related to issues on food. Switching from a family-based management system of resources to one that was keyed on a wider group and was eco-compatible was not simple, and forced us to add a stage of awareness training and capacity building. We also had to redouble our efforts in terms of social mobilization, and also overcome difficulties deriving from low literacy levels, not to mention a wide array of local dialects, some of which do not exist in written form.

Since the submission date, how has your project developed to date?
The idea of pursuing our objectives in a wider context, thus not being limited to self-sufficiency, but exploiting the commercial potential of both the local and the global markets is becoming more compelling, especially in terms of organic produce, which is typical of this area. How you would certify organic products, how you would promote them, and then sell them are issues that have emerged during the course of the project.

What are the next steps?
The project is keyed on consolidating outcomes, and extending the experiment to all the valleys that border the area of the national park. We are moving forward with encouraging the creation of committees to manage the natural resources in a sustainable way. We must respect the objectives of the national park, which does not prohibit the use of the resources in the Buffer zone, but does impose certain conditions as far as sustainable use is concerned.

Do you intend to replicate the project in other countries or in other contexts?
The design of the project and the fact that it has a modular structure makes it scalable in similar situations, particularly in mountainous regions. These areas are particularly sensitive as the context is vulnerable, not least the impact of human activity, or the effects of climate change.

Food waste and its impact on natural resources

Economy / -

Food Waste

Food waste pollutes as much as the US and China. The data show how much it costs.

Food waste globally produces the equivalent of 3.3 Giga-tons of CO2 every year, according to the latest FAO report "Save Food." This number refers to food waste as the third largest producer of CO2 in the world, after the US and China – putting out more than double the emissions from the entire transport system in the US (1.5 Giga-tons) and three times that of European Union (0.9 Giga-tons). A giga ton equals one billion tons.
In a year, wasted water is equivalent to the area of the Volga
The water used, both on land surface and subsurface, for the production of food, which is then wasted is about 250 cubic km, corresponding to the mouth of the Volga in a year with top ranking worldwide for food waste in this unenviable ranking.
Wasted land is greater than the area of Canada
The land occupied by food that is then wasted was in 2007, according to data from the FAO report, about 1.4 billion hectares, an area larger than the surface area of Canada and China, and second only to that of the Russian Federation.
A huge impact on biodiversity
Also noteworthy is the impact of waste on biodiversity. Indeed, cultivation is one of the major threats with the production of cereals which outweighs livestock farming, with a ratio of 70 to 30.
The financial costs of waste
Besides the value of uneaten food, it is necessary to consider the value of natural resources involved right from the production phase. Considering that in the future these resources, which include land and water will be scarce, their value is likely to increase. Food waste in the wealthiest nations contributes directly to world hunger. All states, both rich and poor, buy food items on the same international market. If countries with more economic possibilities buy hundreds of millions of tons of food that then go to waste, they just remove food from the market that would otherwise be purchased by other states. With increased demand come price increases that have and will always have a more direct impact on the purchasing power of countries in the developing world.
Impact on natural resources increases along the production chain
The impact of food waste on natural resources increases along the production process. When considered in its entirety, the production phase has the greatest impact on natural resources, while every other state implies a further environmental impact. This implies that if a given food is wasted, its impact on the environment will be greater according to the number of passages made after production.

Over a million people are already #FoodConscious. What about you?

The ExpoNet Manifesto