‘Two For One’ in Myanmar – CSO SUN launch and GNR Roundtable

At the launch of the Scaling Up Nutrition Civil Society Alliance (SUN CSA) in Myanmar on 17 February, nearly 40 civil society organisations pledged to join the movement to eradicate malnutrition in the country. This was followed by the Global Nutrition Report Roundtable – an event that used the report as an advocacy tool for promoting nutrition in Myanmar.

The day-long proceedings, hosted at the Summit Parkview Hotel in Yangon, Myanmar, was attended by over 80 participants who heard about the SUN CSA’s ambition to help fulfill the National Plan of Action for Food and Nutrition for the country in 2013, with the aim of reducing child stunting from 35% to 30%; and the number of anemic women from 70% to 60% by 2016, among other goals.

The Government of Myanmar signed up to the movement in May 2013, demonstrating its commitment to deliver a sustainable solution for addressing nutrition problems in the country. So far the SUN CSA has signed up 15 members, including the National Nutrition Committee from the Myanmar Ministry of Health.

“As individual organisations serving mothers and children around the country, we have not been able to tackle the prevalence of stunting, wasting and anaemia in Myanmar. A collective effort across all civil society organisations is needed if we are to achieve our goal of eradicating malnutrition here,” said Dr San San Myint, Programme Manager for the SUN CSA.

Some progress has been made in the Southeast Asian country – the average annual reduction in stunting in children is reported to be 1.8% while the average annual reduction in anemia amongst women of reproductive age is 3.7%. However, to reach global targets (agreed by 96 signatories at the World Health Assembly), Myanmar still has some way to go.Myanmar event - Ann

Actions needed to achieve these goals were discussed at the Global Nutrition Report Roundtable, held after the SUN CSA launch. At the roundtable discussion, nutrition experts working in Myanmar came together to share their ideas of tackling malnutrition. Dr May Khin Than, Deputy Director, National Nutrition Center, Department of Health, Ministry of Health, opened the Roundtable, noting that the economic and social costs of nutrition, micro-nutrient deficiency and obesity will slow Myanmar’s development as nutrition is key to sustainable development.

“We must work together through global movements like SUN to accelerate our work in nutrition. We must seriously take up our National Plan of Action for Food and Nutrition to ensure in its forthcoming revision that it becomes realistic and in line with global targets. We must fill in our data gaps. Not tomorrow but today.”

According to other panel experts (from WFP, DFID and UNICEF), the key actions needed are accurate, consistent and measurable data and an integrated approach to nutrition. Myanmar has financial resources but needs to prioritize data and resources to maximize impact on reducing undernutrition, for example, investing in states with the worst indicators. As effective nutrition programmes are best implemented in conjunction with key government and non-government programmes, such as agriculture, health, social protection and education, panel members say the onus is on all development stakeholders in contributing to national outcomes.

Dr San San Myint said: “That’s the role of the SUN CSA – to bring all development stakeholders together, give them a voice, and jointly contribute to achieving better nutrition outcomes for all mothers and children in Myanmar. We are calling for more civil society organisations to be a ray of the SUN CSA.”