Celebrating our 2017 successes and Scaling Up (Nutrition) for the year ahead
Over the past few weeks, we have been celebrating another year ending and a new one beginning. In the words of author Jack Dixon, “if you focus on results, you will never change. If you focus on change, you will get results”. I believe we set the scene for lasting change in 2017 as we moved from inspiration to impact across the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement. As we create lists for the year and set personal and professional resolutions, looking back can help us see how far we have come, as a Movement. To this end, I wish to highlight some of our highlights (and lowlights):
The 2017 SUN Movement Global Gathering – my first #SUNGG since becoming the SUN Movement Coordinator – represents so many fond moments I will forever cherish, and I hope you feel the same. What we were able to show and share in Côte d’Ivoire – together – was nothing short of inspirational. I am particularly impressed with our SUN Government Focal Points, SUN network representatives, the Lead Group and Executive Committee members – in addition to a range of ‘old and new’ nutrition champions – who inspired us to focus on impact during those rich days, and beyond. Thanks go to the more than 1,000 participants who came from near and far and made this GG bigger, bolder and better than ever. I hope this ‘drive’ and momentum for nutrition remains, in years to come, recognising that nutrition is a maker and marker of development.
Another 2017 highlight: last year, I had the opportunity to travel to around 15 SUN Countries, in addition to two out of the three Indian SUN member States, namely Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh. I cannot be prouder of what I have seen and experienced, and these missions have been a constant source of motivation in everything that I do. I am more convinced than ever that countries (and States) are indeed gearing up, teaming up and connecting dots for improved nutrition – across stakeholder groups and sectors. I also wish to welcome Central African Republic and Afghanistan – our two newest members – who joined SUN in 2017. You are now a part of a community that shares and learns more about what it takes to make lasting difference for the better.
A growing level of ownership for nutrition was seen in 2017, across the 60 Countries that make up and drive our SUN Movement. As we know, ending malnutrition in all its forms – and by 2030 – requires political commitment, at the highest level of government. To this end, I applaud the SUN Countries who have made this happen the past year, in addition to the four SUN Networks and support system, who have worked tirelessly to ensure national nutrition plans, strategies, legislation and actions for improved nutrition are scaled up and fit for purpose. Our Focal Points are more and more positioned at the best convening level of government, investments from domestic budgets for nutrition are increasing, we are working more and better with members of parliament, journalists are being trained and media outlets are now better equipped to report on nutrition. This is what the SUN Movement Joint-Assessments show us – which a record-breaking 52 SUN Countries undertook in 2017.
We are also in a better shape than ever to look at real progress and areas where scaling up is needed because of the SUN Movement Monitoring, Evaluation, Accountability and Learning (MEAL) system, which was largely developed in the past year. This important tool is not intended to duplicate any national, regional or global efforts, but rather supplement and help maximise impact across SUN Countries. I am excited to see how this tool will support and measure our efforts and impact in the years ahead.
Which brings me to the present. There are three priority areas for the Movement for the year ahead:
At the top of our priority list, we need to sharpen our focus on nutrition and fragility. This is the time for us to make sure that emergency and humanitarian responses work, hand-in-hand, with development and resilience-building actions. The nutrition community, and beyond, should ensure early warning measures are taken – with the potential of many win-wins. SUN Countries, including Ethiopia and Kenya, have lessons to share, which other countries can benefit from. And if we get this right, more alignment for peace will be found and migration might slow down. “Business as usual” in addressing food insecurity and malnutrition in conflict-affected situations in 2018 and beyond is not an option.
The SUN Movement also finds itself at a critical juncture because of the looming threat that overweight and obesity (and diet-related non-communicable diseases) pose to ensuring good nutrition for everyone, everywhere. This gives us an opportunity in 2018 to look to and learn from countries – all over the world – who have experience in preventing and fighting obesity and NCDs. This opens the window for building partnerships with SUN Movement member countries for working shoulder-to-shoulder and across stakeholder groups. As we aim to end all forms of malnutrition, we would be missing a singular and critical window of opportunity, should we not continue to focus first and foremost on undernutrition but also focus on the double, triple or multiple burdens of malnutrition, which we now see more and more across our Movement.
Much more work is also needed to ensure better workforce nutrition. Healthy workers are happy workers. Business need to step up and lead from where they stand and move nutrition actions out of corporate social responsibility strategies and plans and into the boardroom. This includes, stepping up maternity protection to facilitate breastfeeding, in addition to maternity leave, and – as a next step – parental leave so that mothers and fathers indeed can give their girls and boys the best possible start in life.
I also wish to stress in 2018, we need to look beyond the figures to get an accurate picture of malnutrition across the Movement. Although statistics showed us that hunger is on the up – a lowlight of the past year – I wish to stress that this can mainly be attributed to the famine declared in areas of South Sudan in early 2017 and alerts of high risk of famine issued for three other contexts (northeast Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen). With SUN Countries including Burkina Faso, Ethiopia, Mauritania, Myanmar, and Nigeria reporting a significant decline in the number of stunted children in the last year, the malnutrition picture may be more nuanced and show to positive results in countries, as seen in our Annual Progress Report.
With this, I wish to thank you for making 2017 such an important year for our growing and evolving SUN Movement and hope we all will be nutrition champions in our own right. By leading from where we are, we can make a substantial difference in the lives of many. So, let’s roll up our sleeves and make 2018 – the halfway mark for the Movement’s current phase – a watershed year for nutrition! I count on you to be bold, ambitious and demonstrate how to overcome all forms malnutrition, in practice, leaving no one behind.