Special Edition: Battling Malnutrition

All in: Making malnutrition a global priority

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

WFP: 'We rely on private sector support to improve the ability to deliver good nutrition.'
WFP: 'We rely on private sector support to improve the ability to deliver good nutrition.'

Related tags: Private sector, Nutrition

Nutritional programmes and interventions are a starting point - but genuine multi-stakeholder involvement is what's required to tackle the world's problem of malnutrition and under nutrition.

This includes the commitment of community members to better understand the importance of nutrition, as well as gaining support from governments and the private sector to create long-term sustainable solutions to benefit more individuals. 

“Understanding the national and cultural context of the countries where we work is vitally important,”​ a spokesperson for NGO Vitamin Angels told NutraIngredients.

“We work with local partners who design, staff, and execute their own micronutrient distribution programs, and agree to absorb all distribution costs. Building the capacity of these organisations helps promote the sustainability of our micronutrient supply and distribution systems.”

“Vitamin Angels actively seek to support only those initiatives that are complementary to and coordinated with existing national health services. Our partners’ deep understanding of the communities they serve enable them to identify and fill gaps in health services,”​ said the spokesperson. “This ensures that our vitamins reach the women and children who need them most.”

Vitamin Angels focuses on bringing essential nutrition worldwide through vitamin supplementation. Their projects have helped millions of children in countries around the world by preventing blindness caused by lack of vitamin A and rickets caused by lack of vitamin D and calcium.

Private sector role

Before organisations can incentivise community members to participate in nutritional programmes, they need to reach them. However, it is not easy to set up the logistical framework necessary to get nutritional aid where it needs to go. Here private intervention plays an invaluable role.

It’s a view shared by Greg Barrow, Head of the United Nations (UN) World Food Programme (WFP) in London. “The WFP are leaders in working with the private sector carrying out valuable work with our partners.  Where possible we make the shift to local production of fortified products, purchasing regionally where possible in order to ensure that an adequate and reliable supply is always available.”

“We rely on private sector support to improve the ability to deliver good nutrition. Public-private partnerships with companies such as DSM, whose expertise in local and regional supply chain issues have been invaluable.”

Since 2007, ingredients giant DSM, and the WFP have been in partnership to combat hunger and malnutrition in the developing world. DSM’s public-private partnership (PPP) with WFP via its Sight and Life initiative, has contributed to the diets of people, using essential vitamins, nutrients and fortified rice, in countries that include Nepal, Kenya, Bangladesh and Afghanistan.

This week sees the two organisations extend their partnership to 2018 as it builds on the success of its large-scale fortification programmes. In 2014 the partnership reached in total 25.1 million beneficiaries, including 6.1 million children in school feeding programmes, achieving the partnership's goal of reaching more than 25 million people per year by 2015 ahead of schedule.

Government intervention

The other missing piece in tackling malnutrition calls for governments worldwide to step up and fulfil global targets such as the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for 2015 or the World Health Assembly (WHA) goals for 2025. 

Then, last year the UN Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and World Health Organisation (WHO) published a 60-point plan​ as part of a ‘framework for action’ to improve global food and nutrition systems at the 2nd International Conference on Nutrition (#ICN2) in Rome.

These goals and action points define nutrition as not just a health problem, but a social and developmental one that needs to be addressed collectively. How much donors and the government are involved — and understand —has a huge impact on nutrition interventions. That’s why the WFP and DSM are part of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, an initiative that unites governments, civil society, the UN, donors, businesses and researchers to address malnutrition and under nutrition.

With help from the SUN movement, countries are putting the right policies in place, collaborating with partners to implement programmes with shared nutrition goals, and mobilising resources to boost nutrition.

“We have to work with governments, ministers, in order to ensure the success of programmes in certain countries,”​ said Barrow. “Only by working and coordinating efforts in line with government policy can we achieve the objectives set out.”

“What has proved highly effective though is a holistic, collaborative approach to malnutrition at all levels, supported by governments, agencies, community leaders, and the private sector in order to make the most impact in this area.”  

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