DEVELOPMENT AIMS TO PROVIDE PEOPLE WITH THE MEANS and the social and economic environment necessary to lead active and healthy lives. To achieve this objective, developmental policies and programmes need to be directed towards improving the human development potential, including improvement of nutritional well-being. Nutrition-focused interventions are required primarily to reach and benefit vulnerable individuals. Factors that influence nutritional status, however, fall under the responsibilities of many sectors. All these factors need to be addressed in order to achieve good nutrition and health status. Furthermore, it is crucial that policy-makers and planners in all development sectors recognize and understand the socio-economic background and preferences of target groups. Hence, the principle of coordinated, holistic approaches in policy formulation and programme design is key to successful and sustainable development.
In many developing countries, economic productivity has increased and impressive efforts have been made in nutrition interventions, but significant improvements in nutritional status have not accompanied these advances. For example, about 800 million people worldwide (mostly in developing countries) are food-insecure and billions suffer from micronutrient deficiencies. Investing in nutrition has both economic and social benefits. Improved nutritional status has an enhancing effect on investments in other sectors such as health, education and agriculture. Moreover, the enormous social and financial costs of malnutrition are averted when nutritional status is improved.
Through various international conferences held in the 1990s such as the World Summit for Children (1990), the International Conference on Nutrition (1992) and the World Food Summit (1996), the international community has expressed willingness and intent to eliminate hunger and drastically reduce micronutrient deficiencies by 2015. One of the effective strategies to achieve this goal would be to fully integrate household food security and nutrition objectives into the mainstream of development-oriented planning and investment, and explicitly incorporate nutrition at both the policy and programme formulation levels. In recognition of the need for integrated approaches, the United Nations, at its 2000 Millennium Summit, in developing the Millennium Development Goals, reiterated the commitments of the 1990s with a focus on poverty alleviation.
Several development sector policies and programmes, such as agriculture, health, education, water, sanitation and environment, impact directly and indirectly on nutritional status. In countries where it is feasible to do so, including explicit nutrition goals in these sector policies will enhance nutritional well-being.
Among the development sectors, agriculture is perhaps the most opportune sector for enhancing nutritional status. Agriculture is a major source of income and livelihood for many poor and nutritionally vulnerable households. Several agriculture activities food production, marketing, processing and preservation play a vital role in nutrition. Hence, it is important that development policies and programmes be closely monitored to ensure that they do not have negative nutritional consequences. Rather, opportunities to include nutritional considerations into appropriate sector policies and programmes should be exploited.
W omen and children are most affected by nutritional deficiencies, which emanate from food insecurity. In response, it would be helpful for countries to undertake gender analyses and, as much as possible, include and involve women in development activities at all levels.
It is important that the integral role of nutrition in development be taken into account during policy formulation, programme planning and implementation. Most importantly, the synergistic effect of these sector programmes (and hence policies) on one another needs to be well understood. This will assist in discouraging unnecessary competition for political support and funding. Instead, it will promote collaboration among different sectors and disciplines, and will contribute to the elaboration of a development agenda which is sustainable and beneficial to the target groups.
Objectives of this Policy Brief
The overall objective of this Policy Brief is to create awareness and understanding of the advantages of good nutritional status to the development process, so that nutrition considerations can be incorporated into development policies to facilitate sustainable development.
The specific objectives are to:
create awareness of the problem of undernutrition and its negative impact on human resources and the development process;
build awareness of how to control and prevent undertakings that can increase the magnitude of the problem;
develop strategies that contribute to alleviation of poverty for sustainable productivity; and
advocate for nutrition as a vehicle for human resource development, particularly its consideration in various policies and programmes for national development.
For a national social and economic development programme to be successful and sustainable, the majority of the population should be able to participate in the process. Therefore, the majority of the population should be in good health and have good nutritional status.