12 August 2016

The 2016 Global Nutrition Report: a taste of unfinished work…

The findings of the 2016 Global Nutrition Report - From Promise to Impact - Ending Malnutrition by 2030 published by the Washington-based International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) show that there is still a long way to go to meet one of the most important challenges facing the world, malnutrition, a problem that affects around one-third of world population.

Let’s recall here that the concept of malnutrition englobes those of undernourishment (calorie deficiency that affects 800 million people), micronutrient deficiency (affecting 2 billion people) and over-consumption of food (affecting 2 billion people). The cost of malnutrition has been estimated at around 10% of world GDP, far greater than the loss incurred at the time of the 2008-2010 financial crisis. It includes the economic consequences of poor physical and intellectual development of undernourished persons as well as death and disease of persons suffering from overweight and diabetes due to overconsumption of food.

Despite the importance of malnutrition and repeated commitments made by countries to end it, the Report tells us that the world is off track for achieving this objective by 2030. While good progress has been made on child nutrition, the reduction of adult overweight and the decrease of women anemia have been lagging behind dramatically. And the recent general agreement on 17 Sustainable Development Goals (12 of which, at least, relate one way or another to malnutrition) has not yet really changed this. This is largely due, as is often the case, to the fact that commitments made have not resulted in spendings sufficient to match needs: words and declarations, yes; money, no! And when spendings there are, programmes funded have shortcomings in the way they have been designed: they do not address all dimensions of malnutrition and, sometimes, lack specificity on what they are trying to achieve. Also, important regulations such as, for example, a regulation on marketing of foods and nonalcoholic beverages to children, have not been passed or enforced. Moreover, there are still important data gaps in some countries that need urgently to be filled for better information of decision making.

Starting from these rather mixed finding, what does the Report propose in order to move forward more effectively?

  1. -It highlights the fundamental importance of making political commitments and of keeping them, illustrating this by successes achieved in countries as diverse as Brazil, Ghana and the Indian state of Maharashtra.

  2. -It points at the need to invest more and better in the combat against malnutrition. This includes investing in solutions that have proven successful and tackling malnutrition in all its forms. It also stresses that it is important to understand that improved nutrition is a precondition for development and not its result.

  3. -Finally it emphasises the importance of filling data gaps.

Reading this Report, one cannot but feel a bit uncomfortable. It provides a credible picture of the current world situation and attempts to give a convincing explanation. The malaise probably comes from the fact that it does not go into sufficient depth when it tries to explain slow progress made. How come that, given the importance of the issue, the costs both in terms of money and human suffering, swift solutions are not being brought to it, when, according to the Report, what should be done is well known? What is the reason why political leaders and the population at large is not really mobilised to combat a plague that affects 30% of us, whether rich or poor, weak or powerful?

Reading this Report suggests that filling data gaps may be required, but what is also required is to get a better grasp of why the rightful cause of combatting malnutrition has not become a top priority for all citizens and what can be done to change this. This is the source of our discomfort: ending malnutrition is not only a technical issue of programmes and money, it is a social and political issue, and the report does unfortunately not tell us much on that, if anything.


To know more:

  1. -International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Global Nutrition Report - From Promise to Impact - Ending Malnutrition by 2030, 2016

Earlier articles on related to the topic:

  1. -Countries are getting ready to approve new Sustainable Development Goals for the 15 years to come: What is new compared to the MDGs in 2000? 2015

  2. -Facts and figures on world hunger, 2015

  3. -The Global Hunger Index published by IFPRI shows an improvement in the world food and nutrition situation, 2013

  4. -Seven principles for ending hunger sustainably, 2013

  5. -The food and agricultural policy paradox, 2012


Last update:    August 2016

For your comments and reactions: