World Vision and Save the Children are calling for political promises to be urgently translated into action to avert the deaths of millions of undernourished children, 2.3 million of whom died in 2011 alone.
The two organisations have launched a Nutrition Barometer which assesses governments’ political, legal and financial commitments to tackling malnutrition in the 36 countries where 90% of the world’s undernourished children live. Almost a quarter of these countries have shown little progress in tackling this silent crisis.
“The Nutrition Barometer seeks to hold countries and donors accountable to their pledges to reduce child undernutrition. As the barometer reveals, in many countries words and actions are very far apart,” said the chief executive of Save the Children International, Jasmine Whitbread. “We urgently need to reverse this trend to save children’s lives and to prevent millions more children becoming physically and developmentally stunted in the years ahead.”
Strikingly, India appears at the bottom of the list despite experiencing strong economic growth in the past few years. At the other end of the spectrum lies Peru which has shown strong political resolve and committed growing resources to fight child undernutrition, achieving results.
World Vision and Save the Children are calling on world leaders gathering in New York for the UN General Assembly summit to take urgent measures to tackle child undernutrition. They warn that unless promises are translated into swift action, the ambitious commitment made at the World Health Assembly earlier this year to reduce the number of stunted children by 40%, by 2025, will not be met.
Crucially, the accountability report identifies opportunities for governments to fulfil their promises. Specifically, the new barometer suggests that good governance can play a key role to achieve success in fighting child undernutrition, as reflected in 13 countries representing over a third of the sample.
World Vision UK's Head of Child Health, Besinati Mpepo, said: “It’s proven that good governance is crucial to address child malnutrition. This demands not just political promises, but also strong nutrition strategies backed by sustained, long-term investments, in order for every child to have the best start to life.”
The report reveals Peru has demonstrated excellent legal and political commitments matched by strong financial investment. As a result, the proportion of children suffering from chronic undernutrition in 2011 has fallen to 19.5% from 23.8% two years earlier, even though in some regions over half of children still suffer undernutrition.
In India, on the other hand, child undernutrition levels remain persistently high – around 42% according to the last official survey in 2005/6 – due to issues including inadequate spending on health and nutrition, wide economic and social inequality and weak political commitment, though the authorities commitment to tackle child undernutrition is now strengthening.
The barometer warns that it takes time to translate political and economic commitments into results, which explains why actions to tackle the child undernutrition crisis need to be adopted urgently.
2012 has been a critical year for action on nutrition with global leaders reaffirming their commitment to tackling malnutrition at the G8 and the London Hunger Summit. The 36 countries in this report are capable of saving millions of lives and preventing the number of stunted children by some 64 million by 2025. But this requires political will and commitments, followed by decisive action.
21 September 2012