UNICEF Calls for Innovation

Screenshot 2015-11-12 at 4.08.31 PMThis year’s State of the World’s Children Report has been published and it is calling for innovation. While it is a fact that remarkable progress has been done towards the protection and promotion of children’s rights, an unfortunate amount of children still exist whose rights are continuously violated and are regularly experiencing the tragic repercussion of poverty and malnutrition. The State of the World’s Children Report – Reimagine the future: Innovation for every child, expresses the need for cooperation from the global community to find advanced and unconventional ways to address the age-old problem that is still affecting the lives of the innocent children all over the world, which is poverty and malnutrition.

(See table at the bottom of this post with a quick summary of statistics in Hunger Project program countries.)

Poverty begins prior to the birth of the child, increases across the life course and onto the succeeding generation. It is a cycle of deprivation. A child living in poverty does not only mean being deprived from an access to material goods, it is also a deprivation of life, health, cognitive development, education and opportunities. While an adult may experience poverty temporarily, for children, the consequence can last a lifetime.

Poverty is associated with malnutrition. According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children report, the poorest 20 per cent of the world’s children are twice as likely as the richest 20 per cent to be stunted by poor nutrition and to die before their fifth birthday. Stunting is one of the many manifestations of malnutrition. It is a form of growth failure. Stunting commence prior to the birth of a child. Poor maternal nutrition, inadequate feeding practices, lack of access to clean water and sanitation, non-exclusive breastfeeding and clinical and subclinical infections or diseases are causative agents of stunting. Not only poverty has an awful repercussion to a child’s health, it also deprives a child’s fundamental right to life.

Poverty also plays a huge role when it comes to a child’s cognitive development. Children living in poverty are most likely to encounter learning disabilities and developmental delays. According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children report, nearly 9 in 10 children from the wealthiest 20 per cent of households in the world’s least developed countries attend primary school – compared to only about 6 in 10 from the poorest households. Children who are stunted are most likely to have poor performance in school and have higher chances of dropping out. They are unable to reach their full potential because of the procured learning impediment. Some children choose to drop out of school and prefer to start working at a very young age for the reason that they are able to contribute to their family’s income.

Poverty persists to be a driving force of child marriage. Seldom families get their daughters to marry before 18 because it reduces the family expenses. Many communities also practice economic transactions like “bride price,” where the family receives money or livestock in exchange for their daughter. This practice often results to girls not being able to obtain an education. UNICEF reported that for every 100 boys in secondary school, only 76 girls are enrolled. The cycle of poverty is an often product of child marriage. Because of early marriage and pregnancy, girls are forced to drop out of school, making it harder for them to escape the awful consequences of poverty.

The Hunger Project recognizes the significance of nutrition for the eradication of world hunger and poverty. At the Hunger Project’s epicenters, health care professionals explain the basics of nutrition for both children and mothers and the importance of pre- and postnatal care to women. Women also have access to antenatal care services in the epicenter and children also have access to the epicenter nursery schools and are guaranteed to a full nutritious meal every day they are in attendance. The Hunger Project also partners with more than 100 organizations representative of governments, civil society, the private sector, philanthropic foundations and the research community dedicated to the eradication of malnutrition and poverty.

Others fail to see the correlation between nutrition and poverty. To some, it is mere financial inequity. They fail to see the bigger picture of how one factor leads to the other. Children who are living in poverty are much more likely to be in poverty later in life and is likely to shepherd the next generation to go through the same vicious way of life. Not unless the cycle is being cut, helpless and innocent children are relentlessly punished of this deprivation.

According to UNICEF’s State of the World’s Children report, all children must have an equal chance to make the most of their potential. The report features people across the world who went the extra mile and applied unorthodox approaches to further the progress. The global community must prioritize the children and fully dismantle the numerous hindrances to achieve innovation and ultimately achieve a future in which children from all corners of the world can enjoy their rights.

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IFPRI and The Hunger Project feature ODESZA in 2015 Global Nutrition Report Video

Screen Shot 2015-09-11 at 10.47.50 AMThe official video for the 2015 Global Nutrition Report (GNR), featuring popular electronic music group ODESZA‘s song Kusanagi, launched on Monday, November 9th. The video summarizes key messages about global malnutrition and its effects on strong development. Produced by The Hunger Project’s Policy Analyst, Mary Kate Costello, the video features imagery and video donated by The Hunger Project, accurately depicting the realities of extremely impoverished persons and the challenges of malnutrition.

As Post 2015 nears, the 2015 GNR bears heavy weight in development dialogues about priority issue areas to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals by 2030. The reality that no country is on track to achieve all of the nutrition targets set by the World Health Assembly is sobering given that countries can lose up to 11% GDP as a result of malnutrition. To meet health, WASH and economic indicators, nutrition must be prioritized.

This video marks a turning point for nutrition experts and champions as it aims to reach new audiences by featuring music from a musical group such as ODESZA, which has a social media following of more than 70,000 millennials and electronic music fans. This type of video calls on the millennial generation that beholds the chance to end extreme poverty, hunger and malnutrition in all of its forms to share the message and take action: “To policy makers everywhere from everyone: malnutrition affects everyone on earth.”

ODESZA – “Kusanagi”

Multi-purpose Nutrition Indicators: Measuring Progress of Comprehensive Post 2015 Development Agenda

IMG_0895The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are meant to be a comprehensive and universal framework for improving development and eradicating hunger and poverty – in all of its forms. Its current draft is favorably ambitious. However, there is wide concern among implementing multi-laterals, NGOs and member states about the capacity to achieve the goals given the large number of targets and a possibly exponentially larger set of indicators.

During the United Nation’s Inter-Governmental Negotiations last week (March 23rd – 27th) member states expressed general favor for indicators and targets that are cross-cutting and multi-purpose to ensure that implementation, monitoring and measuring be feasible without compromising the goals; indicators must heed synergistic approaches for multi-sectoral prioritization. The United Nation’s Standing Committee on Nutrition’s policy brief, Priority Nutrition Indicators, notes that 194 Member States unanimously endorsed the below eight nutrition indicators at the 65th World Health Assembly, broadly consenting that they can efficiently and comprehensively measure progress in the most critical areas of nutrition and other development outcomes.

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On Friday, the 27th, members of the International Coalition on Advocating Nutrition (ICAN) – World Vision, The Hunger Project, Save the Children, CONCERN and Action Against Hunger – hosted a timely, multi-stakeholder discussion at the United Nations to discuss specific nutrition indicators that are inherently multi-purpose and thus critical for inclusion in the SDGs. Moderated by World Vision Ireland’s CEO, Helen Keogh, panelists discussed achievements in various development areas via nutrition initiatives, opportunities to leverage the comprehensive nature of the SDGs, why nutrition indicators are so crucial and how nutrition can be fully addressed in the Post 2015 Global Development Agenda Framework.

Anthony Caswell Pérez, Director of International Affairs, Advocacy and Child Rights Governances of Save the Children Mexico, noted that these eight indicators were devised from lessons in development over the last 15 years and have strong, supporting scientific evidence. Pérez pressed the importance of breastfeeding as a multi-purpose indicator: high impact, but low investment for food security and nutrition, and also benefits the SDG health target on ending preventable deaths of newborns and children under five years of age by 2030.

Hien Tran, Global Policy and Advocacy of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, challenged that the current targets of Goal 2 lack strength and ambition to truly improve nutritional impact for all people, not just those considered to be “low hanging fruit.” The nutrition indicators above will not only pave way for improved nutrition for marginalized people, but will also behoove other areas of development (i.e. education, health and decreases in maternal morbidity). This allows for broader application, increased capacity in measuring across sectors and feasibility in their application at both the national and grassroots levels.

Nutrition is a driver of development, but also an outcome of development improvements. Ambassador Caleb Otto of the Mission of the Republic of Palau to the UN noted that achievements to improving nutrition can be hindered by a multitude of issues: addiction, poverty, breastmilk substitutes and poor policies supporting gender equality. He called for stronger political will to address the critical issues of poverty and women to enhance nutrition. While this will rely heavily on much needed data about ideal methodologies of implementation, it is nevertheless an example of needed policies for an enabling environment.

Attendees furthered the technical discussion by highlighting the linkages between agriculture and nutrition, stating that without good agricultural practices, access to land, women’s labor rights and access to markets, nutrition will not be possible for all people. Additional attention was placed on linkages between WASH and nutrition and others discussed the impact of climate change on nutrition as it affects crop availability or composition.

Nutrition is not only a cross-sectoral issue, but also universal. Almost every country in the world faces longterm health risks attributed to some form of malnutrition. This is true across classes, ages and gender. Addressing malnutrition will not only save lives, but will also reduce inequalities and build resilience (ICAN, February 2015). If the development community intends to achieve sustainable development in a mere fifteen year period, efficiency and effectiveness through nutrition initiatives as they are specified in the SDGs’ indicators will be critical.

The Importance of Multi-sectoral and Integrated Nutrition Strategies


Those who wish for a more peaceful, just and sustainable world are helping to make ending world hunger a major priority… Together we can end hunger.  Robert Alan Silverstein

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), an estimated 870 million people in the world, or one in eight, were suffering from chronic undernourishment in 2010-2012. Almost all the hungry people, 852 million, live in developing countries, representing 15 percent of the population of developing countries, and there are 16 million people undernourished in developed countries (FAO, 2012). An outcome of malnutrition, stunting alone affects 165 million children under 5 years of age around the world. (UNICEF, 2013). Malnutrition is the largest single contributor to disease, according to the UN’s Standing Committee on Nutrition (SCN), and under-nutrition among others, affects school performance, leads to a lower income as an adult, depletes immunity to diseases and causes women to give birth to low birth-weight babies. (WFP, 2014). The multidimensional effects of malnutrition makes nutrition interventions imperative to incorporate a multi-sectoral and integrated development approach . The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) , WHO, World Food Programme (WFP), FAO, and projects by several bilateral and multilateral organizations have helped reduce child and maternal mortality, extreme hunger, malnutrition and poverty over the past decade. Despite the achievements, there still a long way to go to end malnutrition problems. The causes, effects and relationships between malnutrition and other development challenges makes it important to  have a multi-sectoral approach as it enables planning and programming nutritional programs efficient and sustainable. ¨The determinants of malnutrition are multifaceted; stemming from individual health status to household food access, to social, economic, political, and environmental factors at national and global levels¨ (USAID, 2013).

USAID Nutrition Strategy 2014- 2015 Draft and The World Health Organization (WHO) Global Targets 2025

In response to the challenges of malnutrition , the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) has released the USAID Nutrition Strategy 2014- 2015 draft in late 2013,  and the agency’s  nutrition strategy draft calls for public comment before its final draft. The aim of the nutrition strategy( NS) 2014- 2025 is to improve nutrition to save lives, build resilience, increase economic productivity, and advance development. As to interventions and approaches, the NS 2014 -2025, advances two types of interventions : a timely nutrition-specific interventions at critical points in the lifecycle that can have  a dramatic impact on reducing malnutrition globally if taken to scale in high burden countries; and nutrition-sensitive interventions which have more potential to enhance the effectiveness of nutrition investments worldwide.(USAID, 2013). According to the ND 2014 – 2025 draft there are opportunities for nutrition impact with a number of nutrition-sensitive interventions including :

  • Family planning,

  • Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH),

  • Nutrition-sensitive agriculture,

  • Food safety, food processing, and dietary diversity in partnership with industry,

  • Early childhood care, development and education and

  • Economic strengthening and livelihoods and recovery

To download and read USAID’s Nutrition Strategy 2014-2025 draft, click here.

Many of the current development interventions in the above listed areas of are being approached in separation from each other. The one-sector approach lacks synergy and fails to integrate nutrition intervention with other projects . Today, there are far more governmental, non-governmental, bilateral and multilateral, for profit and nonprofit organizations  working in the development arena, and many of them follow a one-sector approach while the challenges of the poor_especially malnutrition and poverty are interrelated and interdependent. For instance, provisions of nutritious foods in schools and de-worming at health centers will only capture a few percentage of population with access to the two services. But, an alternative intervention of the above would reach far more people if coupled/integrated with robust agricultural and rural development programs projects. An excerpt from NS 2014- 2025 draft notes the following about nutrition intervention strategies.

Although economic growth has been linked to improvements in under-nutrition (Shekar & Elder, 2013; Webb & Black, 2011), investments in agriculture have demonstrated even greater impact on both poverty alleviation and malnutrition since most of the poor are working in agriculture (Headey, 2011; Webb & Black, 2011).

The World Health Organization (WHO) Global Targets 2025

At the global level, the World Health Organization (WHO) member states have endorsed the Global Targets 2025 for improving maternal, infant and young child nutrition following the sixty-fifth World Health Assembly that took place in Geneva, Switzerland from 21-26 May 2012. The assembly approved a comprehensive implementation plan on maternal, infant and young child nutrition. WHO’s Global Targets 2025 include the following:

1. 40% reduction in the number of children under-5 who are stunted

2. 50% reduction of anaemia in women reproductive age

3. 30 % reduction in low birth weight

4. no increase in childhood overweight

5. increase the rate of exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months up to at least 50%

6. reduce and maintain childhood wasting to less than 5%

To read more WHO’s Global Targets 2025, click here

Both the USAID’s Nutrition Strategy and Global Targets 2025  call for comprehensive and all inclusive implementation plan on malnutrition. Though the former stresses the importance integration of nutritional programs and advancing a multi-sectoral approach to solving the global nutrition challenges, the resolutions and decisions annexes of the Global Targets 2025 falls short of calling upon member states to adopt an integrated and multi-sectoral nutrition intervention strategy. The following is an excerpt from USAID’s NS 2014- 2025 draft.

Effective interventions must reach across disciplines to address the multi-sectoral nature of malnutrition. In the past, many nutrition initiatives have been vertical programs implemented through isolated delivery systems: however, there has been a recent recognition that multi-factorial causation is best addresses with multi-sectoral interventions. (Lartey, 2008).

Multi-sectoral  and Integrated Approach to Nutrition Intervention

¨A successful strategy for alleviating poverty and hunger in developing countries must begin by recognizing that they are mainly rural phenomena and that agriculture is at the heart of the livelihoods of rural people.¨ (FAO, 2014).

To ensure sustainability of the nutrition programs and to bring about a lasting solutions to malnutrition and poverty in developing world,  development players at level should keep in mind the role of agriculture in the livelihood of the majority global poor and the advantages of multi-sectoral and integrated nutrition intervention approaches.  Nutrition interventions should be part of agricultural and rural development policies as 75% of the poor live in rural areas, and governments and decision makers at level should integrate nutritional interventions in their policies. (FAO, 2012).  “Economic and agricultural growth should be ¨nutrition-sensitive” and growth needs to result in better nutritional outcomes through enhanced opportunities for the poor to diversify their diets; improved access to safe drinking water, and sanitation; improved access to health services; better consumer awareness regarding adequate nutrition and child care practices…” (FAO, 2012)

To download and read FAO’s State of Food Insecurity in the World 2012, click here.


FAO. (2012). The State of Food Insecurity in the World: The multiple dimensions of food security. Retrieved on 19 February 2014 from http://www.fao.org/docrep/018/i3434e/i3434e.pdf

USAID. (2013). Nutrition Strategy: 2014-2025 Draft. Retrieved on 19 February 2014 from http://agrilinks.org/sites/default/files/resource/files/Nutrition%20Strategy%20Draft%20for%20Public%20Comment-12.20.13.pdf