Bringing Malnutrition Into The Political Spotlight

“Most people think malnutrition is all about not having enough food or enough of the right kind of food to eat,” but while “[t]his is a big part of the story … there are many other links in the chain,” Lawrence Haddad, director of the Institute of Development Studies, writes in a BBC Magazine opinion piece. “So dealing with malnutrition means fixing all the links in the chain — food, health, sanitation, water and care,” he states. “We know that handwashing with soap helps prevent diarrhea. We know that fortifying flour and salt with key vitamins and minerals bolsters nutrient intake for those with low quality diets. We know that deworming improves nutrient absorption by the gut,” he continues.

“So if we know the causes of malnutrition, the terrible toll it exerts on people and on societies, and what to do about it, then we may wonder why it is so persistent,” Haddad writes, adding, “A major reason is that malnutrition is an invisible crisis.” He continues, “Fundamentally we have to make nutrition visible, we have to help governments become more responsive and we have to find ways to act in concert for nutrition. Ultimately we have to get more political about malnutrition reduction.” Haddad gives examples of some countries that have done this, and he writes that the two-year-old Scaling Up Nutrition Movement (SUN) “is leading the way” and “is beginning to make a difference to policies, thinking and spending.” He concludes, “There are about 170 million young children who are malnourished, and there are many more adults who are suffering from the terrible legacy of malnutrition early in their own lives. But we can eradicate malnutrition in 20 years. I really believe that with all my heart” (11/29).

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