The Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement is working to strengthen multi-stakeholder collaborations to end malnutrition.
Malnutrition in all its forms remains a global problem, according to the latest State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report. In 2020, stunting affected an estimated 149.2 million children under the age of five. In addition, 45.4 million children were wasted and 38.9 million were overweight.
Gerda Werburg, SUN movement coordinator, argues that too often decisions are focused solely on calories and not on nutrition. But nutrition is critical, she says, and goes far beyond human well-being.
“[Nutrition] is, of course, health,” Verburg says in an interview with Food Tank. “But it’s also… nutritious and healthy, inexpensive and affordable food. This is social security. This is education.” She explains that malnutrition hinders children’s development, making it harder for them to do well in school, get a job, and support a family.
The SUN movement works to improve nutrition by bringing together representatives of civil society, donors and United Nations agencies, as well as the private sector. In each of SUN’s 65 member countries, this group helps their country find solutions to the root causes of malnutrition.
This work, Verburg argues, is essential to support women and children who are particularly vulnerable to global shocks, including the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain disruptions caused by political conflict and the climate crisis. “In many countries…women are the last to eat and very often the last,” Verburg tells Food Tank. She continues, “Very often they get hit first, they get hit the hardest, and they get hit the longest.”
To support these vulnerable groups, the organization is committed to investing in and scaling up country-specific interventions. “What do we need at the community level to take care of our children?” Werburg asks. “What kind of food system do we need? How can we make sure all babies are getting the right level of breastfeeding and support? How do we support our women?
The movement sees that at the national and regional levels, mayors, governors and religious leaders are mobilizing to answer these questions. “They are aware of the fact that they can manage their dignity and their own prosperity,” Verburg says.
And, despite the difficulties, Verburg remains committed to this work. “I’m always hopeful,” she tells Food Tank, “because pessimism is not an option.”
Listen to the full conversation with Gerda Verburg on “A Food Talk with Dani Nirenberg” to learn more about the link between malnutrition and the climate crisis, the first official SUN Youth Network in Côte d’Ivoire, and why, according to Verburg , short people create a “stagnant economy”.
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Photo courtesy of Patrick McGregor, Unsplash