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Gauging Country Commitments to Fight Malnutrition with a “Nutrition Barometer”
So what’s a nutrition barometer? It’s the same principle as a weather barometer, used to measure atmospheric pressure so that short-term changes can be predicted. Two of Bread for the World’s partner organizations who also work to end global hunger and poverty published a report that measures and ranks countries’ progress in combating malnutrition. Save the Children (UK) and World Vision developed the first nutrition barometer, calling it a snapshot of national governments’ commitments to addressing children’s nutrition, and the progress they have made.
The barometer includes analysis of the 36 countries with the highest levels of child undernutrition. It measures governments’ political and legal commitments to tackling malnutrition (for example, whether they have a national nutrition plan), as well as their commitment of money. Actual progress is measured by children’s nutritional status – the percentage who are underweight, stunted, or suffering from wasting – and by a child’s chance of survival to age 5. Countries are then ranked, according to both their commitments and their nutritional and child survival outcomes, in four categories – sound (green), fair (yellow), emerging (blue) and frail (red).This year is becoming one of the most important ever in the fight against malnutrition, especially among vulnerable groups such as pregnant women and young children in the critical 1,000 days window of opportunity. In addition to statements on nutrition by President Obama at the G-8 Nutrition Summit and the launch of the New Alliance on Food Security and Nutrition, the U.K. hosted an additional summit focused on nutrition during the London Olympics. At the London summit, British Prime Minister Cameron and Brazilian Vice-President Temer laid out a prescriptive course of action aimed at reducing the number of stunted children in the world by 25 million by the beginning of the next Olympic Games, scheduled for 2016 in Rio de Janeiro. If this goal is reached, we will be well on the way to the aspirational goal announced by the World Health Assembly of reducing the number of stunted children by 40 percent globally by 2025.
We are witnessing other key nutrition initiatives as well, including the Scaling Up Nutrition movement, the U.N. Secretary-General’s Global Strategy on Women’s and Children’s Health, and the 1,000 Days Partnership. U.S. assistance provided through Feed the Future and the Global Health Initiative has a renewed focus on nutrition as a cross-cutting development issue, much as gender and climate change are. Cross-cutting issues are particularly important because they are key influences in multiple sectors, such as agriculture, health, and education.
So which countries fared well on the nutrition barometer, and which have much progress to make? Guatemala, Malawi, and Peru are at the top, showing both strong commitments and successful outcomes. At the other end of the scale are countries like the Democratic Republic of Congo, India, and Yemen, who lack political and economic commitments, and where women and children continue to suffer high levels of malnutrition.
We have been blogging regularly about the global momentum that is building in the fight to end hunger and malnutrition. The world’s poorest countries have made political and budget commitments in the form of national nutrition strategies, because they are convinced that having a healthy, well-nourished population is the way to improved economic performance. The United States continues to be a global leader in fighting malnutrition, but that leadership will be put to the test when Congress returns for its so-called “lame duck” session after the national elections. A new farm bill that funds food aid and mandates nutritional improvements needs to be negotiated since the 2008 farm bill expired on September 30, 2012.
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