17 Nov 2023

Tackling Malnutrition in a Changing World: A Call for Accountability and Action

Shibani Ghosh, Giacomo Zanello

Malnutrition affects the health and well-being of people all over the world, and poses significant threats to global food security, human development, and economic growth. Globally, 11 million people die each year from nutrition-related diseases. This issue disproportionately affects women and children, with 45% of deaths in children under five being linked to undernutrition. What makes this even more concerning is that these figures do not fully account for any additional burden caused by ongoing crises around the world.

Living in times marked by catastrophic humanitarian and climate crises, largely stemming from geopolitical inequities, there is a pressing need for stronger and more rapid progress at scale towards achieving the sustainable development goals and the global nutrition targets.

Accountability is crucial to guiding the global community towards eradicating malnutrition. Over the past decade, Nutrition for Growth (N4G) Summits, convened by different governments, have emphasized the need for systematic and rigorous accountability measures. The last N4G summit held in Tokyo, Japan in 2021 saw increased commitments from various stakeholders, including governments, to address nutrition inequities. Over US$42.6 billion, including commitments from low- and middle-income countries, has been pledged. However, estimates show that between 2022 and 2030, an additional average of US$10.8 billion per year is required to achieve four global nutrition targets, which are particularly relevant in low- and middle-income countries. The current situation requires us as a global community to hold ourselves even more accountable and recognize that despite galvanizing significant support for nutrition, the burden of food insecurity and malnutrition is likely to grow.

The Global Nutrition Report plays a pivotal role in tracking global nutrition commitments, progress, and accountability. It offers valuable insights into the state of global nutrition, highlighting areas of progress and ongoing challenges. The introduction of the Nutrition Accountability Framework (NAF) in 2021 marks a significant stride forward. As the world’s first independent and comprehensive real-time platform for monitoring nutrition commitments and related actions, the NAF is instrumental in enabling adjustments based on progress, setbacks, and emerging challenges. This approach fosters an agile and adaptive response to global and national nutrition needs.

Despite the challenges we face, sustainable diets that put an end to malnutrition and food insecurity are within reach. Efficient allocation and utilization of resources, driven by accountability mechanisms like the NAF, are essential for data-driven decision-making. Coordinated efforts and transparent reporting are key to ensuring equitable access to adequate and nutritious food for all, while also safeguarding the environment.

However, the path ahead is not without obstacles. Persistent and ongoing geopolitical inequities threaten to exacerbate the burden of malnutrition. Without stronger global advocacy efforts at global, national, and sub-national levels, achieving the targeted goals may fall short. This includes efforts to end preventable deaths of children, prevent famine and food security crises, and build a food system that is climate resilient and sustainable. The need for a united, accountable, and action-oriented global community - from governments to donors, civil society organizations, and businesses - is more pressing than ever in the fight against malnutrition.