After many years of progress on nutrition, health, and development, we now seem to have crisis upon crises threatening nutrition security. The COVID-19 crisis, the worst economic shock since World War II, climate-related disasters such as the extensive drought in the Horn of Africa and man-made conflicts in Yemen, Syria, Ethiopia, Myanmar, and most recently Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.
The result of these shocks and the fragility of modern food systems threaten the health and nutrition status of millions of vulnerable mothers and children across low- and middle-income countries. The recent joint statement by the Standing Together for Nutrition Consortium and its partners in the science journal Nature highlights some of the causes and potential impacts of this global nutrition crisis.
However, this new looming malnutrition crisis did not happen in isolation. After years of COVID, draughts and conflicts, the ability of households, communities, and countries to cope against these cascading challenges is weakened.
Achieving the 2030 Agenda on Sustainable Development in this era of complex challenges depends on strengthening the ability of communities and nations to not just cope – but also to respond and recover from shocks or a multitude of shocks. In other words, to strengthen the resilience of individuals and populations – as well as the systems on which they depend.
Resilience, according to the Oxford English Dictionary defined as “the ability of people or things to recover quickly after something unpleasant, such as shock, injury, etc.” is therefore both an appropriate and a timely theme for the 2023 Micronutrient Forum 6th Global Conference, entitled Nutrition for Resilience.
Despite the overwhelming evidence that optimal nutrition and, specifically, optimal micronutrient status improves overall health, immunity, and productivity, nutrition status is generally viewed as an outcome of more resilient populations and neglected in research and development agendas as integral in pathways that build and lead to resiliency.
A more complete understanding and sectoral examination of the key nutritional drivers for resilience is necessary, for example, to support immunity against emerging waves of infectious diseases, to develop more comprehensive shock-responsive systems in fragile settings, and to scale-up impactful population-based interventions and prevention programs across both crisis and non-crisis contexts.
We cannot afford to lose an entire generation of children due to the consequences of malnutrition. Re-thinking and establishing a compelling and evidence-based agenda on the interdependence of nutrition and resilience, with a gender responsive focus, offers opportunities to advance integrated research agendas, support policies and investments for cost-effective micronutrient interventions and accelerate progress towards global nutrition and broader development goals.
On behalf of the Forum and our partners, I welcome you joining us in 2023 to help advance the collective global agenda on micronutrient security and resilience. Stay tuned for more information!