The Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) gave the world tangible and visible goals that can be monitored and evaluated by governments and the world community. The challenges we are still facing are many, specifically with regards to the MDGs related to food security and nutrition. The world economic crisis has slowed down this process. Low-income countries still have high poverty and unemployment rates, with a low proportion of people who have secondary school or above. However, the scientific community has more understanding of what needs to be done to better food security and nutrition, especially among children below 2 years of age. The Lancet Series of Nutrition and Child Survival are good examples of opportunities and how evidence needs to be translated into practice. For instance, we know that the promotion of breastfeeding is a cost-effective intervention which protects children´s nutrition and health during the first years of life. We also know that appropriate complementary feeding interventions are key in sustaining adequate nutritional levels among children. A great opportunity is that we are more aware what nutrition during the first years of life means for economic productivity and health later on in life. It is crucial, hence, to have well executed cost-effective nutrition interventions with results at the local level to improve children´s nutrition. We know what to do.
We need to secure the nutrition of infants and children during the first two years of life. For this, governments and the world community should focus on executing nutrition interventions targeting this age group. As previously mentioned, the promotion of breastfeeding is the most cost-effective intervention that can save lives. In addition, complementary feeding interventions have the capacity to secure adequate nutrition between 6 and 24 months. Governments need to prioritize in bettering food security, so households can have access and availability to food all year round. For example, conditional cash transfers can enable access to food of the poorer families. This intervention, however, is a clear example of how governments need to be hold accountable of their administration and finances when considering the implementation of social programs like the mentioned above. I think it is highly important to strengthen mechanisms that ensure the effectiveness and transparency of country programs. This can be done by ensuring governments to work against tangible results.
The objectives mentioned above cover crucial areas of food security and nutrition. I suggest adding other indicators. The new WHO infant and young child feeding indicators could be used as potential measurements of some of the objectives. For example, the proportion of children who meet dietary diversity and meal frequency could be used to measure the objective 100% access to adequate food all year round. As well, the indicator minimum acceptable diet could be used to measure the overall quality of children´s diet. These indicators are part of the document Indicators for assessing infant and young child feeding practices Part 1 Definitions (http://www.who.int/en/). With regards to nutrition, stunting should be the indicator that measures growth and nutrition. Thus, governments should work in favor of measuring stunting, especially among the under 2 and 5 children.
The objectives should be global because they are a reflection of the problems that most of low-income countries face with regards to food security and nutrition. They should be time-bound and evaluated every 5 years to examine the progress countries make and when necessary re-direct the efforts in pro of meeting these goals. I believe governments are more accountable when time frames exist.
This thematic discussion was led by FAO and WFP in collaboration with “The World We Want”.
The consultation was facilitated by the Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition (FSN Forum)