868 million people suffer from hunger in the world and every year, malnutrition causes the death of three million children. 165 million children under five suffer from malnutrition (growth delay, fragile health, cognitive development) and they are unlikely to be able to fully contribute to the development of their countries when they reach adulthood. Hunger and malnutrition supply the vicious circle of poverty.
At the 39th G8 summit staged in Lough Erne (Northern Ireland) on June 17th and 18th 2013, the Heads of States made commitments to nutritional security, following the G8 “Nutrition for Growth” event held on June 8th. With 37 years working for food security and 20 years for the prevention of child malnutrition in developing countries, GRET promotesthe necessity to recognize the specific challenges of food and nutritional security.The confusion of both objectives tends to dilute the commitments at the expense of the achievement of global goals.
Key commitments for nutritional security
Malnutrition is caused by inadequate nutrition, poor quality of care and the occurrence of diseases among women and children. In the 1000-day after-birth period, the preventive and curative care, the quality of environment (water, sanitation) and a specific child’s feeding (breastfeeding, fortified complementary foods) are determinants for the child nutrition Despite this need for a multi-sectoral approach to these various determinants of malnutrition, current cooperation policies tend to hold up agricultural production as the only response to the situation. While in recent years, the ambition of nutrition experts has played down to encouraging existing sectoral strategies to incorporate nutrition-centred actions, the UNICEF International Conference against child malnutrition held in May 2013 marked a turning point. The growing interest of donors and the need to lift up for fight malnutrition as a key goal in itself has been already demonstrated. Malnutrition and agricultural development are responding to specific needs, intervention strategies and differentiated approaches. By systematically amalgamating agricultural development (often curtailed within the confines agricultural production) and the nutritional situation of women and children, the States curtail their financial and political commitments to the detriment of the effectiveness of responses to two major problems plaguing Africa. As an example, only 7% of the investments of the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition, created by the G8 Summit at Camp David in 2012, incorporate the nutritional dimension!
Under the leadership of Great Britain, the Scaling up Nutrition movement seeks to strengthen the nutritional component of the New Alliance and to reinforce the commitments of public authorities to “improve the nutritional impacts of existing or forthcoming private investment.” Although GRET hails the leadership of the British government, it remains expectant to witness an increase in private investment. At a meeting with the civil society in the lead-up to Lough Erne G8 Summit on June 13th 2013, GRET submitted to the President of the Republic François Hollande several recommendations to uphold an ambitious stance for France with respect to the issues of nutritional security with its international partners. The four recommendations are based on the priorities of the Nutrition strategic Guiding Paper which includes several contributions it made in 2010, and the conclusions of the UNICEF International Conference against child malnutrition.
n Launching multisectoral initiatives to improve nutritional status
The approach of developing nutrition-focused activities within existing sectoral programmes has shown its limitations. Fight against the malnutrition of children frequently hit by diarrhoea or malaria, with no access to drinking water, care and sanitation has no sense. It entails deploying long-term actions on health, nutritional education, support to local production and marketing of food supplements, rural development and water and sanitation.
n Supporting local production and marketing of fortified infant foods
In most African countries, local markets do not offer affordable and good quality infant foods to families. For 10 years now, GRET has demonstrated in several countries the feasibility of developing such an offer within the reach of the Bop (Base of the pyramid – poor populations) in these countries, and has shown evidence of the usefulness of these mechanisms. However, replicating these solutions by marketing them to local contexts entails garnering resources to:
- Support local businesses in producing these foods from home-grown raw materials and marketing them.
- Support product research and development costs, investment in capital equipment and the launch of the product on the market to increase its affordability to the poor, which the market alone cannot guarantee.
- Advocate for a protective legislative framework wherein quality standards are enforced, and national public policies supportive to the development of such approaches.
n Promoting social business against malnutrition
On June 6th, the British government held a G8 Summit to promote social impact investing. Gret is testing this innovative model in order to expand and sustain its actions against malnutrition conducted in Madagascar for 10 years, through the creation of the Malagasy social enterprise, Nutri’zaza last May. For the Gret, social entrepreneurship is a solution for development. As part of the 2013 Conferences on development and international solidarity, GRET defends four recommendations promoting this solution for development:
- The importance of public support and of working with research institutions in the incubation/start-up phase, with an eye to testing innovations that will help achieve economic balance by realising a social objective.
- The adoption of flanking policy and tax measures supportive of social businessess that cannot survive only by living up to market logic.
- An official development assistance (ODA) promoting job-creating innovations
- The need to articulate the support to businesses in the South with CSR (corporate social responsibility) policies in the countries of the North.
n Supporting public awareness with good feeding, hygiene and care practices
Exclusive breastfeeding for infants up to six monthshas proven impacts on children’s nutritional status. It depends on families’ understanding and choice. Equally important are the use of care, in-family sharing of meals, consumer goods purchase priority, the use of food supplements, etc. Temporary but intensive awareness mechanisms are key practices to informe and promote best practices among populations.
n The G8 Assessment Praiseworthy commitments and priorities to review
On June 18th the Lough Erne G8 culminated into commitments to nutritional security. GRET has defended recommendations to President François Hollande during a meeting with NGOs on June 13th. Though the fight against malnutrition stood out as a specific objective, G8 commitments are targeted, regardless of the Nutrition for Growth Global Compact, to actions listed out in distinct sectoral approaches and which are unlikely to reduce
n Resources dedicated to the fight against malnutrition
The G8 Summit in Lough Erne hosted the Global Nutrition for Growth Compact signed at the G8 nutrition event held on June 8th, which includes specific commitments against malnutrition (Commitment 55). $ 4.15 billion have been pledged or recalled to save the lives of 1.7 million children, to improve the nutritional status of 500 million young children and women and to reduce by 20 million the number of malnourished under-five children. GRET welcomes this commitment, which is in tune with the UNICEF International Conference which sets the fight against malnutrition as a main goal .
n Priorities unlikely to achieve nutritional security
At the G8, the Global Nutrition for Growth Compact committed to a multi-sectoral approach (health, water, sanitation, agriculture), the promotion of nutritional security, the funding of scientific research to support the production of vitamin-fortified agricultural produce, the promotion of breastfeeding, and supporting the governments of the South in a view to adopting national nutritional plans and to ensure that companies in these countries place nutrition at the core of their priorities. GRET recommends that the promises should inform a multi-sectoral approach in the fight against malnutrition, including support to home-grown food supplements and tailored to the purchasing power of the poor communities locally, such as stipulated in the Global Nutrition for Growth Compact.
Regarding the Global Nutrition for Growth Compact, GRET has made two remarks: the limitation of the scope to 14 priority countries, with the largest populations, leaving aside the “small” countries with high rates of malnutrition, and the role NGOs restricted to fundraising and supervision without mobilizing them as key development actors working closely with the populations. GRET has signed the text, reasserting these specific commitments.
n France: a sectoral-limited approach to nutrition
In the Global Nutrition for Growth Compact, France does not promise any financial commitment to help implement a multi-sectoral approach. It intends to fight malnutrition through its emergency response frameworks (food aid) or sectorial frameworks (strategic framework on food security in sub-Saharan Africa, supporting children health in Sahel). This excludes Asian countries, thus becoming a sector-based (agriculture and health) or emergency-centred approach that will not help prevent malnutrition. According to Olivier Bruyeron, GRET nutrition specialist, “France should specify the amount of its financial commitments to fight malnutrition, and develop a specific strategic action framework to give life to its commitments”.
François Hollande is to meet NGOs againbefore to the forthcoming G20 slated for September 5th and 6th and chaired by Russia, and before a progress meeting organized by the Global Nutrition for Growth Compact on the sidelines of the General Assembly of the United Nations in September.
 FAO, 2012