LATAM makes greatest global progress in lowering stunting, Scaling Up Nutrition reveals

By Natasha Spencer

- Last updated on GMT

© Getty Images / Jose Luis Pelaez Inc
© Getty Images / Jose Luis Pelaez Inc

Related tags: stunting, micronutrient

As Latin America makes the most significant global progress in lowering stunting levels, by halving them from 9.6 mn to 4.8 mn between 2000 to 2018, we explore what advancements are taking place throughout the region to further progress nutrition efforts.

The Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Global Gathering 2019, themed Nourishing people and planet together,​ brings together priorities and representatives from civil society, United Nations agencies, private sector partners, academia, media, parliamentarians and donors.

Launched in 2010, the SUN movement strives to provide an ongoing and practical view of how the global community can unite to drive change and call for an end to malnutrition by 2030.

Commenting on the strategy and its accompanying roadmap for 2016-2020, Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General, United Nations (UN), states that it accentuates how there are: “Few challenges facing the global community today that match the scale of malnutrition, a condition that directly affects one in three people.”

Looking ahead, the SUN Movement will strive to maintain its focus on good nutrition during the first 1,000 days of life. Emphasizing the “pivotal window of opportunity”​ that is present from birth to the age of two in influencing a child’s future, these early years remain a continued focus for SUN.

“Nutrition is both a maker and a marker of development,” ​emphasizes Ki Moon. “Improved nutrition is the platform for progress in health, education, employment, empowerment of women and the reduction of poverty and inequality, and can lay the foundation for peaceful, secure and stable societies.”

LATAM targets

Latin America made the biggest progress in lowering stunting around the world. In Latin America and the Caribbean, Peru has already met the SUN’s target by lowering the number of stunted children under age five by 40%.

However, the rate of overweight children under age five has risen to 7.5%. Calls for a multisectoral approach that see collaboration and coordination between governments to advance nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions are intensifying to achieve nutritional progress.

Ongoing commitment for nutritional improvement

Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala and Peru are all members of the SUN movement. 2019 saw Honduras join the movement, becoming the 61st nation to commit to SUN goals. 

Costa Rica’s legislative assembly continues to progress in alignment with its Parliamentary Front Against Hunger and Malnutrition (2018-2022), which sets out a strategic plan to lead and impact dialogue that engages in debates and political fronted-campaigns to end malnutrition.

Although not a SUN member, Haiti has also progressed with its nutritional effort by launching its Food Security and Nutrition program that focuses on multisectoral and resilience efforts.

Guatemala has been an international focal point due to its national programs on family farming and the fight against nutrition. Adding a gender perspective to these issues has hailed Guatemala as an influential leading nation on these topics.

Establishing its program to overcome childhood anemia in July 2018, Peru continues to strive for coordination between various governments and sectors to better equip and advance efforts on issues relating to malnutrition. Peru adopts a multisectoral and intergovernmental approach by teaming up with 15 ministers along with local and national governments to understand and advocate for initiatives and programs to overcome anemia.

The newest member of the SUN movement, Honduras, has updated its National Food and Nutrition Security Policy and Strategy, along with its National Action Plan for Food and Nutrition Security and Nutrition Action Plan (2019-2023), to provide a clear framework to follow.

El Salvador launched its national food and nutrition security policy for 2018-2028 that focuses on helping vulnerable groups and those impacted by emergencies. It will also seek to enhance the legal and institutional framework to better enable sustainable action across all levels throughout the country.

More progress needed

“Must do more, better and faster,”​ the SUN progress report on malnutrition states, amid reports that, at present, only 11 of 61 Scaling Up Nutrition Movement​ countries are on track to meet World Health Assembly​ stunting-reduction targets by 2025.

“This fact calls all of us to increase our support to country-level action,” ​Henrietta Fore, Lead Group Chair, SUN Movement, emphasized in the report.

Economic collaboration and political coordination

“The SUN Movement has helped demonstrate that investing in nutrition makes good economic sense, but in many countries around the world, this investment doesn’t happen at all or does not happen to the extent which it should,”​ highlighted former Tanzanian president Jakaya Kikwete, a member of the SUN Movement Lead Group.

To truly move forward and reach SUN goals, the report states that nutrition “must be explicitly integrated in global and national initiatives” ​that impact all of our lives and our overall quality of life. Namely, “climate change, agriculture and food security, water and sanitation, gender equality, social protection, and universal health coverage to reduce fragmentation and ensure mutual wins”.

At present, every $1 invested in proven nutrition programs provides $16 in benefits. Yet, there is a “critical gap”​ in nutrition financing and so alignments between investments must be present to meet nutrition targets.

Donor funding is also necessary, as although capital injections from governments account for the largest share of nutritional investments, donor contributions are rapidly decreasing. In 2017 alone, donor funding was $100 million below the anticipated target.

Teaming up with nutrition company, DSM, SUN has set up a focus area that experiments with innovations on how to better nutrition, address malnutrition, and positively impact policies and funding.

Global goals

As the SUN is working on its strategic review to lead the third phase of the movement, which will drive the final stage of the targets through to 2025, the new progress report explores achievements to date.

In the annual global gathering, this year held in Kathmandu, Nepal, the progress report revealed that none of the 61 countries belonging to the SUN movement are currently expected to meet the World Health Assembly (WHA) goals. These targets aim to lower the prevalence of anemia in women of reproductive age by 50% or lower the incidence of low birth weight by 30%.

Almost half of the SUN member countries are predicted to witness no rise in childhood overweight. A third of the 61 countries are expected to see a rise in exclusive breastfeeding for infants in the first six months of life up to at least 50%.

“There has been progress, but much more needs to be done,” ​Ki Moon urged.

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