Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN)
By bringing top decision-makers from leading institutions, international development agencies and over 33 national governments affected by food insecurity to the table, and by setting up targets for the Post Millennium Development Goals, the SUN initiative is becoming a cornerstone in the fight to reduce hunger.
At a senior level conference held in Brussels on March 14th and 15th, leading officials, experts of the development community and stakeholders of the countries affected by malnutrition shared their views on how to tackle under-nutrition, which continues to affect 165 million children under the age of 5 worldwide.
They have forged a list of principles and achievable objectives likely to bring results in the coming years, agreeing to tackle malnutrition as a development rather than an emergency issue, and have also adhered to a target of 40% reduction in stunting or chronic malnutrition by 2025.
“The SUN initiative is coordinated at country level through a nutrition focal point who is usually (…) in the office of the President, of the Prime Minister or in the planning commission [in the partner countries],” explained David Nabarro, the SUN Movement coordinator.
“The nutrition focal points increasingly set up multi-sectoral platforms in which different stakeholders can work together for getting a single set of agreed results in nutrition,” he continued.
The SUN Movement is organised around a secretariat and five networks of constituencies, namely private sector, civil society, United Nations, country network and donors’ network. The EC is the largest donor with a contribution of 40% of the costs of the SUN secretariat. The remainder is covered mainly by USAID, DFID, Canadian, Irish and German cooperations, and the Gates Foundation.
David Nabarro is also the Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for Food Security and Nutrition. He said that the United Nations organisation is fully behind this initiative, and advised development practitioners to be “nutrition sensitive.”
Tom Arnold, Executive Director of Concern Worldwide and one of the leaders of the SUN initiative, said that the initiative targets key groups: pregnant women and children under 2, because when those groups are hit by malnutrition, there are dire consequences for the society as a whole.
“What is new about this initiative is that there is a clear understanding that adequate nutrition is important not only for the individual child but is actually important for the whole country, because if a large number of children are not properly nourished, (…) it will have effects on the long-term economic prospects,” he explained.
“The overall objective is to bring about a significant reduction in the level of child under-nutrition,” he continued. "So far, 33 countries have signed up to the initiatives, 20 of those have developed plans for their own countries. The challenge is to get those plans implemented and to see results.”
As a country member of the SUN initiative, Senegal has developed a preventive approach to malnutrition since 2002, said Senegal's SUN initiative national coordinator, Abdoulaye Ka.
“[We] have a multi-sector platform with specific nutrition related interventions, such as following up on child growth, screening of severe acute malnutrition, (…) or key actions to sustain child growth and good nutrition,” said Mr Ka.
“In the dialogue the EU has with our governments, it is important that the question of nutrition is put on the table with the importance and precision it deserves (…) so that there is an understanding of the different faces needed to promote nutrition,” he said. “Partners like the EU need to align to the needs of the partner countries for the aid to be efficient. It needs to be done in a spirit of both partnership and accountability.”
The EU is not only the main contributor to the SUN Movement secretariat’s budget, it has also taken the lead in key countries with food security problems, such as Niger and Laos.
"We are donor convenors in those countries, which means we are the link between the donor community and the country SUN focal points. As such, we report quarterly on the food situation of those countries to the SUN," explained Pedro Campo-Llopis, of EuropeAid's Rural Development, Food Security and Nutrition unit, who highlighted the fact that "the SUN initiative and the recent EC Communication on nutrition converge towards the same objectives."
The Communication on nutrition is based on three main themes: support to the governance of nutrition, scaling up nutrition investments, and broadening the knowledge base on nutrition, by investing on research on nutrition.
"EC strategy will lead to increased cooperation between unit C1 [Rural Development, Food Security and Nutrition unit] of DG DEVCO and the EU Delegations in key partner countries, and notably in those that have taken the commitment of joining the SUN initiative," said Mr Campo-Llopis.
As part of this strategy, the nutrition dimension of projects in sectors of intervention such as agriculture, water and sanitation, health and social protection is likely to be strengthened.
"The EC will like to see nutrition higher up in the post-MDG Development agenda," Mr Campo-Llopis said.
Other leading organisations in the fight against under-nutrition, such as Médecins Sans Frontières, are also part of the SUN initiative.
“The humanitarian world is dealing with under-nutrition in term of crisis where what we see is that around the world, it is often a chronic problem (…) that needs to be treated on the longer term,” said Dr Marie-Pierre Allié, President of Médeceins Sans Frontières (MSF), stressing that in some Sahelian countries such as Niger, every year 50% of the children are potentially affected by severe malnutrition and therefore need a package of supplementary food, medical treatment and other preventive actions.
She said that, as an organisation of field practitioners, MSF can propose appropriate solutions to the different stakeholders.
Having the main stakeholders involved in the fight against nutrition is one of the achievements of the SUN initiative, as nutrition is often seen as “everybody’s business but no one’s responsibility,” said Professor Lawrence Haddad, Director of the Institute of Development Studies.
“What’s new about the SUN Movement is that it sees nutrition not only as a technical health issue but as a development issue. If you don’t have good nutrition status, you won’t have good economic growth,” he said during his presentation on Nutrition.
“Ultimately, it will be successful when national leaders are working with international leaders to implement, raise funds and document results,” he concluded.
This collaborative piece was drafted with input from Pedro Campo-Llopis, David Nabarro, Tom Arnold, Abdoulaye Ka, Marie-Pierre Allié and Lawrence Haddad with support from the capacity4dev.eu Coordination Team.