COVID, climate change and conflicts wiped out progress made in malnutrition “over the last 15 years,” says GAIN
22 Feb 2023 --- With a new five-year strategy, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), aims to address growing malnutrition and hunger in vulnerable populations due to COVID-19, conflicts and climate change. The organization adds that a lack of access to affordable healthy diets lie at the root of all forms of malnutrition.
Dr. Lawrence Haddad, executive director of GAIN, explains that malnutrition cases are going up for the first time in a very long time. “They’re going up so fast that they’ve essentially wiped out progress over the last 10-15 years.”
The organization stresses the need for food systems to become more diverse and locally sustainable to be safer and more resilient to shocks while reaching the most vulnerable.
Haddad adds: “Protecting them is at the core of our new strategy. And GAIN will be working extra hard to reach these populations.”
With the strategy, “Healthier diets for all, leaving no one behind,” GAIN aims to amplify the growing urgency and awareness of transforming food systems to tackle human development and planetary needs.
By 2027, the organization wants to improve access to nutritionally enhanced staple foods to 1.5 billion people, sustainably transform the diets of 25 million people to healthier diets and support food systems change in 10 countries to help meet targets from the UN Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).
GAIN aims to focus on protecting the most vulnerable people and will target their efforts on those living on less than US$3.20 a day. Haddad adds that these people are the most affected by shocks.
In the last five years, GAIN added nutrients to the diets of around 1 billion people, notes Haddad. The organization aims to expand that number in the coming years.
However, sustainably transforming diets toward healthy diets is more complicated than adding nutrients, notes Haddad.
GAIN will work with government departments, businesses, civil society and researchers to transform food systems in 10 countries, for which the right incentives are key.
Last year, GAIN called for additional overseas funding to overcome sky-high food prices and insecurity in Ukraine and Africa, following the start of the Ukraine war.
Most vulnerable populations
Haddad explains, “The most vulnerable, who tend to be ignored by food systems, are the ones most affected by the shocks such as conflict, COVID-19 and the climate crisis.”
He adds that hunger is approaching 2005 levels while child undernutrition is reaching 2010 levels.
While presenting the new strategy, Haddad explains that one in three people is malnourished, as around three billion people are deficient in vitamins or minerals and 768 million go hungry.
Child undernutrition was projected to affect 60 million children under five in 2022.
Doubling down on healthy diets
GAIN will focus on healthy diets, with campaigns and policy work for its strategy. Haddad explains that GAIN aims to promote healthy foods and reduce the consumption of unhealthy foods.
The organization will also engage nature, which Haddad adds can “advance nutrition more quickly through reducing food loss and food waste, and producing more climate resilient nutritious food crops.”
GAIN aims to scale up to reach more people through its programs by designing programs that amplify its impact through policy, partnerships with business and civil society, markets and knowledge sharing.
Haddad adds that GAIN aims to raise US$400 million over the next five years. The organization seeks to obtain 75% from governments and 25% from foundations, philanthropies and high-net-worth individuals new to nutrition.
Effects of climate change
GAIN urges that addressing food system transformation is vital to climate change, with malnutrition and hunger being the most pressing issues.
The organization adds that millions of people in Sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia and Central America will be at risk of malnutrition and hunger by 2050 if food systems do not adapt to the effects of climate change.
Impacts of greenhouse gasses, water usage and deforestation need to be reduced. Food production, distribution and consumption are all significant contributors to these impacts.
Edited by Jolanda van Hal
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