The Governments of Canada and Bangladesh, in partnership with the Government of Japan, hosted a virtual launch of the Nutrition for Growth Year of Action, setting in motion a year-long effort to address a global hunger and nutrition crisis that has been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. The event featured more than US$3 billion in financing commitments or re-commitments from a range of stakeholders including the Government of Canada, the Government of Pakistan, World Vision International, UNICEF, and the World Bank.
“This year, because of the impact of the COVID-19 virus, a potential 270 million people are facing food insecurity. The most vulnerable are those who were food insecure or malnourished before the pandemic — largely women and children. To address these concerning projections, I am pleased to pledge CAD$ 520 million in nutrition-specific funding over five years to support gender-informed life-saving nutrition interventions for the poorest and most vulnerable.” said Canada’s Minister of International Development, Karina Gould.
The total funds committed are a fraction of what is needed to tackle the global malnutrition crisis, but represent an important down payment as additional commitments are made over the coming year. The Nutrition for Growth (N4G) Year of Action launches a roadmap of key events throughout 2021, culminating in the UN Food Systems Summit in September 2021 and the Tokyo N4G Summit.
The Government of Bangladesh re-committed to continuing and strengthening nutritional educational and counselling services; Vitamin A supplementation and de-worming programmes; and large-scale food fortification. The Bangladeshi government pledged with an emphasis on women’s empowerment — enabling them to take decisions regarding their own and their children’s well-being.
New data released recently by the Standing Together for Nutrition consortium predicts massive consequences for maternal and child nutrition as a direct result of the pandemic. Over the next two years, an additional 168,000 child deaths will occur, 9.3 million children will be wasted, 2.6 million children will be stunted, and 2.1 million women will be anaemic unless immediate and significant global action is taken. The costs of future productivity loss due to increases in child stunting and mortality from the effects of COVID-19 on child nutrition is estimated to be US$ 29.7 billion.
Hunger is on the rise and poor diets are now the leading risk factor of death worldwide—responsible for one in every five deaths globally, more than tobacco, high blood pressure, or any other health risk. Despite this, donors currently spend less than one percent of overseas aid on nutrition. New financing estimates show that to combat the effects of COVID-19 on child stunting, child wasting, and maternal anaemia, an additional US$ 1.2 billion is needed annually on top of the Global Nutrition Investment Framework financing estimates of US$ 7 billion per year.
New resources committed aim to close the gap in nutrition financing. To date, N4G mobilisation efforts have generated unprecedented and impactful commitments to improve global nutrition. In 2013, at the first Nutrition for Growth Summit in London, donors secured new major commitments of over US$ 4 billion to tackle undernutrition, and US$ 19 billion in complementary nutrition-sensitive investments between 2013 and 2020. At the 2017 Global Nutrition Summit in Milan, governments, civil society organisations, private philanthropies, and the private sector made financial and policy commitments totaling US$ 3.4 billion.
Donors have delivered on their previous financial commitments, some two years early. The United Kingdom reached its target from 2013 by delivering nutrition interventions to 50 million people, and the European Union EU is projected to meet its target from 2013 to reduce stunting by 7 million. The outcomes of the Nutrition for Growth Year of Action will be enshrined in a global compact that will serve as a global agreement on international and multi-stakeholder commitments to nutrition and summarise the combined ambition of all stakeholders to reach specific, time-bound nutrition targets.