Hope for ending malnutrition in the spring of sustainable development


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With the arrival of spring comes hope, an enduring optimism to finally rid the world of hunger. In the era of sustainable development, nations have committed to end malnutrition by 2030, recognising that a collective effort is needed to realise this goal.

However, the challenge is great and although progress has been made, one in three people are malnourished. Collectively known as the ‘triple burden of malnutrition’, 2 billion people consume diets that are lacking in one or more vitamins or minerals, 1.9 billion are overweight and obese and almost 800 million do not have enough to eat. Not only are poor diets a key determinant of malnutrition, but they also represent the number one risk factor in the global burden of disease. Investing in nutrition has the potential to save lives, help millions of children develop and thrive and generate economic rewards – for every $1 invested, there is an $18 dollar return.

Why does SNV care about nutrition?

As the factors that shape nutrition are multi-sectoral, so too are the interventions that must be integrated to accelerate nutrition gains. Agriculture and the wider food system, is the one sector which has the most influence on what type of food is available, accessible and affordable. Reflecting on its experience in food security, SNV echoes sentiments of the wider community, that increasing yields and income alone doesn’t automatically translate into improved diets and nutrition. Improving food supply and in turn the food environment, must be complemented by other approaches, including consumer education (behaviour change communication - BCC), water sanitation and hygiene (WASH), gender and inter-sectoral governance structures. In Laos for example, our team, supported by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), integrates the Sustainable Nutrition for All concept successfully used in Zambia and Uganda with all the other approaches. Realising that chronic malnutrition not only exists in the communities but is having a detrimental effect on their children, people are ‘triggered’ into action. But more than that, the communities themselves are driving change. Read on and get inspired by their stories.

Lillian’s garden

Lillian, a widower and a mother of four, lives in Chinsali in Northern Zambia, an area where chronic malnutrition (stunting) rates peak at 44%. After attending a community triggering session in her village, Lillian was motivated to grow more diverse vegetables and crops in her garden to consume. Driven by her desire to ‘provide for her family’, she is determined to make her garden a success; however she is increasingly challenged by the persistent lack of water during the dry season. Our SNV Sustainable Nutrition for All team is working with the community Nutrition Action Group to explore irrigation options and crop alternatives.

Mary’s meals

After engaging with the local governance staff in a community session, Mary Akiki, a grandmother from Kyenjojo in Uganda was also ‘triggered’ and motivated to feed her grandchildren a better diet. She wants to give them the opportunity to develop and reach their full potential. When we visited her on a rainy day last November, she prepared a meal using food from her garden. She proudly said that she used food from all five food groups promoted in the BCC: carbohydrates, animal protein, plant protein, vegetables and fruits. She wrote a letter describing the work of the volunteer ‘Mugoma Feed the Family Group’, who are actively promoting the importance of good nutrition in the villages.

Mary and Lillian’s experiences illustrate that communities are working together. Alone they will not win the malnutrition battle. Sustained investments in multi-sectoral interventions supported by an enabling environment are critical, but their stories exemplify hope that the 2030 goal will be realised.

Watch the video below to learn more about our Sustainable Nutrition for All approach.