March is #nutritionmonth in Canada and it’s exciting to follow all the conversations around the limitless potential of food to fuel our bodies, heal what ails us, and bring people together. This month provides a wonderful wealth of information encouraging Canadians to ‘Unlock the Potential of Food’ through events, recipes, factsheets and much more – find out more here. As we celebrate #nutritionmonth here at home, it’s a good time to ponder the global state of nutrition. How far are we in the journey to achieving the global goal to “end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture” by 2030?
It was sad to read last year’s State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World (SOFI) Report and realize that we are moving backwards in our fight against world hunger. 2017 saw 37 million more people go hungry than 2016. Now, a recent publication in Nature Journal of Science has found that most of Africa will fail to meet the Target to end malnutrition by 2030.
Goal 2 of the UN SDGs is to “End hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture”; within that Goal, Target 2.2 states that “by 2030, we will end all forms of malnutrition, including achieving, by 2025, the internationally-agreed targets on stunting and wasting in children under 5 years of age, and address the nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women and older persons.” Many countries in Africa are on track to improve maternal, infant and young child nutrition, but high levels of Childhood Growth Failure are expected to persist and even increase.
In 2016, an estimated 36.6% of children under five were stunted, 8.6% wasted and 19.5% underweight in Sub-Saharan Africa. Childhood Growth Failure was the second leading risk factor for child mortality and accounted for more than 23% of deaths of children under five. While many countries in Africa saw an overall improvement in malnutrition between 2000 and 2015, huge subnational disparities still exist. Almost every country has areas where the risk of stunting and wasting is low and areas where this risk is high and rising. For instance, in 2015, Kenya had a national prevalence of 5.7% for wasting, but rates as high as 28.2% were found in areas within the Rift Valley Province. No single African country has reached or is projected to reach the SDG targets in all its territories by 2030.
If we are to end all forms of malnutrition by 2030, we need to refocus our attention on SDG target 2.2. As the UN implements policies and programmes to address Goal 2, interventions need to be specifically targeted at programmes that address Childhood Growth Failure for populations with the greatest need.