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Public-Private Partnerships Could Play a Critical Role in Tackling Malnutrition

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20 January 2012

Malnutrition strikes at the core of a child’s physical and cognitive growth, which makes it also a social and economic issue that can impact the potential of developing countries, according to experts. It can have many causes, including inadequate food intake, disease resulting from poverty, and poor social, political and economic environments.

Addressing malnutrition therefore calls for the mobilisation of a range of sectors and actors. Among these, Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) can play a critical role in fighting malnutrition and ensuring effective action on the ground. Public-Private Partnerships are forms of cooperation between public authorities and businesses, with the aim of providing services for the public.

Undernutrition (a form of malnutrition), is a condition that occurs when the body does not receive adequate calories and nutrients, including vitamins and minerals, for growth and maintenance. It particularly affects children under the age of two, damaging their health and vitality for the rest of their lives.

“Nutrition is not only about nutrients, but it’s the best - the most cost effective - thing you can do for your country in getting your children to learn more and therefore to earn more or create wealth when they are adults," said Philippe Cori, Director of UNICEF Brussels.

Mr Cori was speaking during a recent conference in Brussels on Combating Malnutrition through Sustainable Interventions, which brought together representatives from across the international development community scientists, industrialists, civil society representatives, politicians and private enterprises to raise awareness on the issue.

Specialists agreed that Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) could play a critical role in tackling malnutrition, since in many cases private companies own the technologies that can make a difference, as well as managing food distribution channels.

“We need the private sector to innovate and come up with cost effective, smart and high impact products that we could use in our interventions,” explained Mr Cori. "UNICEF has a long established practice of working with the private sector.”

The Conference provided an opportunity to showcase exemplary Public-Private Partnership anti-malnutrition projects in both Asia and in Africa.

The UN’s World Food Programme (WFP) highlighted its partnership with Royal DSM N.V. (DSM), a global science-based company active in health and nutrition. DSM provides the WFP with sachets of “Mix Me”, a ready-to-use vitamin and mineral mix, for distribution to people in need. The sachets are sprinkled over a meal or a drink and provide people with daily essential vitamins and minerals, supplementing a poor diet.  The WFP and DSM developed the product in 2007 and over 400 million sachets have since been distributed through the WFP, and other organisations, in Bangladesh, Dominican Republic, Kenya, Nepal, Peru and South Africa.

Cooperation with the private sector needs to be further strengthened in line with the priorities of the EU's new development policy, Agenda for Change, recently launched by Commissioner Piebalgs.  Other private operators could join forces in facilitating delivery of clean water, social transfers, or investing in bio fortified agriculture.

According to representatives at the conference, no-one can solve malnutrition alone. Partnerships, private and public, are critical in ensuring effective, efficient action on the ground.

Long-term measures to reduce malnutrition, representatives added, should be given a higher priority, with key focus on identifying and stimulating catalytic factors which will contribute to break the cycle of malnutrition. 


The European Commission, which is a major contributor to WFP and UNICEF, has recently released a reference document on addressing undernutrition in external assistance providing a detailed description of how nutrition benefits can be realised by modifying the design of programmes in all relevant sectors and thematic areas – from health to governance, food security to gender.


DISCLAIMER: This information is provided in the interests of knowledge sharing and capacity development and should not be interpreted as the official view of the European Commission.

DISCLAIMER: This information is provided in the interests of knowledge sharing and capacity development and should not be interpreted as the official view of the European Commission, or any other organisation.

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