By Paulus Verschuren, Special Envoy for Food and Nutrition Security for Development, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Netherlands
Undernutrition is one of the greatest challenges facing the world today. More than two billion people around the world are deficient in key vitamins and minerals and it is responsible for 11 per cent of the total global disease burden. Because of its direct and indirect impacts, undernutrition is often considered the number one threat to health worldwide.
Perhaps the greatest tragedy is the effect that undernutrition has on future generations. It is the underlying cause of more than 3.1 million child deaths per year. For many that survive, their growth (both physically and mentally) is stunted, leading to increased health risks and impacts on future earning potential. Adults who were undernourished as children lose more than 10 per cent of their estimated lifetime earnings. And yet, as a sector, nutrition has historically received very little investment.
The good news is that there is hope! Investments in undernutrition deliver good value for money, with every $1 spent on nutrition averaging a $15 return. The scale of the problem and the cost effectiveness of the solutions have brought the issue of undernutrition onto the global agenda, with global movements such as Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) and Nutrition for Growth drawing new resources into the sector.
These movements commit to an approach that in the Netherlands we refer to as the Dutch Diamond. It is a commitment to multi-stakeholder action – engaging governments, private sector, civil society and knowledge institutions to co-create collective solutions.
Undernutrition is too complex an issue to tackle alone – but together we can bring change that is more effective and more sustainable. The most powerful part, and the part that I believe makes this multi-stakeholder approach to nutrition possible, is that investing in nutrition doesn’t just yield better health outcomes – it also yields higher productivity, increased sustainability and more powerful economic growth. Therefore, investing in nutrition is good business! As a Special Envoy for Food and Nutrition Security for Development, I have been championing what I believe is a key message – if we are to solve the global nutritional challenge we must work together on one single agenda. And we must work across sectors, as agricultural production, health and nutrition are closely inter-connected. Only through partnerships, levering the skills, capacity and investment can we can unlock new delivery models that can truly make the difference we are all looking.
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