Nutrition Gets Its Turn

Anne Peniston – Nutrition Chief, USAID
Anne Peniston has worked in U.S. and international public health for more than 30 years as a clinician, researcher and program manager.

Undernutrition has a long-term impact on our nations’ health, economies and security, and in the past two years, the political will and leadership to tackle the issue on a global scale has been unprecedented. While there are many challenges ahead, recent global commitments, country policies and programs, and new partnerships are meaningful indications of nutrition’s elevated role on the development agenda.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon recently challenged us all to create a world free from stunting. The U.S. is committed to meeting this challenge by maximizing synergies across programs and tapping resources from various sectors such as economic growth, food aid, humanitarian assistance, health and water to maximize investments to improve the nutritional status of women and young children.

The U.S. government, through its Feed the Future and Global Health initiatives, is supporting country-owned programs to address the root causes of undernutrition and improve the future potential of millions of people. Nutrition is the defining link between these two initiatives, which aim to reduce undernutrition through integrated investments in health, agriculture and social protection.  Last year alone, we reached 8.8 million children and trained more than 150,000 people through nutrition programs working to reduce stunting and anemia; increase access to diverse, quality foods; and treat acute malnutrition.

To achieve our goals in reducing undernutrition, however, we realize that partnerships are essential. The U.S. views its role in the Scaling-Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement as critical to achieve results that no individual partner could achieve alone. SUN is a multi-stakeholder, country-led movement to reduce undernutrition with a focus on the scale-up of proven nutrition interventions, particularly during the 1,000-day window of opportunity from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday. As of October 2012, 30 countries worldwide have committed to the SUN Movement.

In September 2012 the U.S., along with other G8 members, announced that Burkina Faso, Côte d’Ivoire and Mozambique would join Ethiopia, Ghana and the United Republic of Tanzania in the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition. First announced by President Obama at the Camp David G-8 Summit in May 2012, the New Alliance is a commitment by G8 nations, African countries and private sector partners to support agricultural development in sub-Saharan Africa, with the goal of lifting 50 million people out of poverty and reducing undernutrition in the next 10 years.

In many ways, nutrition may have indeed arrived in 2012 through these increased efforts, but we must continue to ensure that high-level commitments translate into concrete nutrition interventions and forge meaningful partnerships between development agencies, governments, civil society and the private sector. Only through these collaborative, multi-sectoral approaches will undernutrition become a thing of the past.