The Copenhagen Consensus Center, one of the world’s leading development think tanks, published the Food Security and Nutrition Perspective Paper in November 2014 about the benefits and costs of food and nutrition targets in the post-2015 development agenda. The paper addresses the evolution of nutrition goals from the MDGs to the SDGs and provides a brief analysis anticipated cost-benefits such as the economic advantages of nutrition interventions. For example, stunting causes generational economic disadvantage and loss. Hence nutrition interventions targeted to curb stunting have tremendous economic value. Hoddinott et al 2013 was referenced in the paper for providing the ratio that for every $97.11 invested per child in Bangladesh for nutrition, there is a future economic advantage worth $1,735 with a 5% discount rate. That is a cost-benefit ratio of 1:17.9.
Stunting is also a better measure of nutrition than the label of “underweight,” which was used as the main indicator in the MDGs. Stunting measures a long-run nutritional status rather than a current status. The following illustration explains the significant impact of using stunting as an indicator for undernourishment.
‘Imagine a child who is born and grows up in early childhood consuming a diet largely consisting of starchy staples, and whose mother faced the same diet during her pregnancy. Such a diet is devoid of the variety of foods needed to provide the minerals and vitamins required for healthy growth. This child is likely to end up stunted by age two (short for his/her age), after which catch-up in height is more difficult….The MDG goal (halving underweight) will incorrectly categorize this child as of normal weight, whereas the proposed SDG goal (stunting) will correctly categorize this child as suffering from long-run undernutrition.’
The inclusion of WHO’s nutritional goals in the SDGs strengthens the focus towards stunting and long-term nutritional solutions. However, rather than just adopting WHO’s reduction of stunting by 40% in 2025 and dragging it to 2030, the paper recommends adjustment and increasing the number of targets according to the additional time length. It also recommends that data on stunting be complemented with additional information on wasting in countries facing short-term crises and overweight/obesity in all countries.
The Hunger Project has been advocating for a nutrition focused food security strategies for a long time. The health and nutrition centers in our epicenters have been working to establish behavioral change among mothers towards nutrition as part of the neonatal and prenatal care services. The Hunger Project is thrilled about the significant progress made within the international development sector to move nutrition to the forefront of the global food security agenda.