MAKAKILO, Hawaii — Today, malnutrition contributes to nearly half of all deaths in children under the age of five. That translates to the loss of about three million young lives a year.
According to UNICEF’s most recent data, poor nutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life can lead to stunted growth and an increase in the frequency and severity of infections, especially in Asia and Africa where this issue is widespread. But this not only puts children at risk of suffering health consequences, it can also impair cognitive ability, school and work performance, economic development, resilience, security and more.
Scaling Up Nutrition, or SUN, is a global movement that believes all people have a right to food and good nutrition. It unites people from governments, civil society, donors, businesses, researchers and even the United Nations in a collective effort to prioritize efforts to address malnutrition—and it’s an effort that’s working.
Thus far, 54 countries are working to scale up nutrition by putting the right policies in place, collaborating with others to enforce programs with shared nutrition goals and mobilizing resources to scale up nutrition with a core focus on empowering women. Cambodia is just one of the 54 countries making strides in scaling up nutrition, and it all begins with a declaration.
Earlier this month, Cambodia made a landmark multi-stakeholder and multi-sector Declaration on Nutrition. At the two-day national conference, the government of Cambodia and multiple stakeholders came together to declare that the elimination of malnutrition is a goal for the Cambodian people. This recognition proves a collective ambition of all stakeholders to improve nutrition among the vast sectors listed before them. The continuation of the celebration of a national Nutrition Day, every year on November 6, was also agreed upon as stated in their government’s directive.
SUN’s approach is simple when it comes to tracking progress and measuring impact for scaling up nutrition in its participating countries—every country takes ownership and responsibility for delivering sustainable solutions that best fit them. The success of the movement is dependent on national leaders to take a collaborative approach in bringing together the people and resources needed to quickly scale up specific nutrition interventions as well as enforcing cross-sector strategies that are nutrition-sensitive.
However, when countries join the SUN Movement, their governments and partners also agree to take forward four processes that contribute to nutritional outcomes:
- Bring People Together: Work together, effectively, through functioning multi-sector, multi-stakeholder platform(s).
- Put Policies in Place: Establish (and seek legislative endorsement for) a coherent policy and legal framework.
- Implement & Align Programs: Identify common objectives and agree a framework of results around which to align and intensify actions.
- Mobilize Resources: Mobilize sufficient domestic resources, supplemented with external assistance, to realize the agreed results as quickly as possible.
These four processes outline the goals for scaling up nutrition, and though participating countries are responsible for tracking their own progress in these areas, there is also a SUN Government Focal Point in place to coordinate tracking efforts with involvement from the Multi-Stakeholder Platform. Moreover, because each country has unique needs and capabilities, the priorities and processes differ slightly across the movement but all are aimed at establishing nutrition goals and universal access to affordable nutritious food, clean water, sanitation, healthcare and social protection; increased adoption of practices that contribute to good nutrition; optimal growth of children (reduced levels of stunting and wasting); and improved micronutrient status.
Over 165 million children under the age of five are stunted as a result of malnutrition. 52 million children are too thin and require special treatment. 43 million children are overweight as a result of poverty when families cannot afford a nutritious diet. And two billion people overall are deficient in multi-nutrients. These are the facts that SUN has founded their movement on and why they believe nutrition is a smart investment, especially for women and children.
As stated on their website:
“Girls and women are well-nourished and have healthy newborn babies. Children receive proper nutrition and develop strong minds and bodies. Adolescents learn better and achieve higher grades in school. Young adults are better able to work and earn a sufficient income. Families and communities emerge out of poverty. Communities and nations are productive and stable. And the world is a safer, more resilient and strong place.”
Recognizing this, SUN believes that investing in nutrition can break the cycle in poverty, and that this is no easy mission for one country. At least 54 of them also recognize the importance of this mission and the numbers are growing as SUN continues to implement both specific nutrition interventions, such as micronutrient supplementation, and nutrition-sensitive approaches, like improving access to services to ensure that women and children stay healthy. These two focus areas are part of the strategy in ensuring a world that no longer has to lose three million children a year from poor nutrition.
To join the movement, click here.
– Chelsee Yee