Micronutrient malnutrition is silent and invisible. Its impacts, on the other hand, are not. Micronutrient malnutrition has serious consequences, contributing to poor health outcomes, increasing child mortality, lowering immunity and resistance to disease, reducing human potential and productivity. Yet, globally, more than three billion people do not have healthy and nutritious diets. Prior to the pandemic, at least two billion people were micronutrient deficient1 – an estimation that is thought to have sharply risen since March 2020.
This December, the Nutrition for Growth Summit, (N4G), hosted by the Government of Japan, offers a significant and timely opportunity for governments, donors, businesses, and stakeholders to stand together to end malnutrition in all its forms and change the world’s trajectory.
As part of the N4G Year of Action on Nutrition, the Micronutrient Forum, together with the Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Consortium and the Standing Together for Nutrition Consortium (ST4N), has made three policy commitments.
Firstly, the Forum commits to driving the global micronutrient agenda by hosting and establishing three alliances or coalitions that bring together diverse stakeholders to coordinate and strengthen knowledge and the evidence-base for policies supporting micronutrient interventions and micronutrient data by 2025. These alliances and coalitions will consist of diverse stakeholders across research communities, donors, national governments, foundations, multilaterals, and civil society organizations.
Secondly, the Healthy Mothers Healthy Babies Consortium, hosted by the Forum, commits to growing its membership to no less than 300 members and establishing focal points and liaison entities for Multiple Micronutrient Supplementation in at least 50 countries by 2025. Focal points and liaison entities include anyone working in the field of multiple micronutrient supplementation (MMS); for example, policy advocacy, implementation research, demonstration pilots and building supply chain capacity.
The Consortium’s Goal to grow in reach supports the deliberate transition of the distribution of iron folic acid (IFA) to multiple micronutrient supplements (MMS) in contexts with poor diets, high prevalence of maternal undernutrition, and high levels of adverse pregnancy outcomes, notably stillbirths, babies born with low birth weight or who are small for gestational age by 2025.
Thirdly, the Standing Together for Nutrition Consortium (ST4N), hosted by the Forum, commits to generating a policy-relevant gender framework, highlighting the differential impacts of COVID-19 on women and children’s nutrition by 2022. ST4N’s framework assesses COVID-related restrictions that affect family income, health services and schools and maps how these restrictions interact with underpinning gender power relations to disproportionately affect women’s nutrition. This commitment will support advocacy for funding relating to COVID-19 mitigation and recovery.
While we are in the final months of the year, we are far from ending the race to end malnutrition. This December is a chance to accelerate action on the World Health Assembly’s Nutrition Targets, before the culmination of the Decade of Action on Nutrition in 2025. But we must act urgently, and we must come together in new ways. At the MNF, we look forward to supporting and empowering all our partners towards eliminating global micronutrient deficiencies.