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IRIN Examines Forthcoming U.N. Child Malnutrition Program; IPS Reports On FAO Latin American Report

IRIN looks at a planned U.N. initiative to combat early childhood malnutrition and the questions surrounding it.

The strategy, called Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN), “will push countries to design nutrition policies based on new studies that show good quality food for mothers and children in the first 1,000 days, including pregnancy, would not only save millions of lives but raise literacy and economic growth rates,” according to the news service. “The initiative does not provide details of interventions, but says it will depend on new evidence-based studies and encourages countries to develop and design their own policies,” IRIN adds.

U.N. agencies, think tanks, academics and NGOs have helped shape the program, which is likely to be launched in 2011, according to David Nabarro, head of the U.N. High-Level Task Force on the Global Food Security Crisis. He “said the roadmap to implement SUN called for providing resources to at least 25 countries to initiate three steps – stock-take, build capacity and scale up action by the end of 2015,” IRIN writes.

“But already questions are being raised about the lack of consultation, and time and resources needed to see it through,” IRIN writes. Purnima Menon, a research fellow with International Food Policy Research Institute, notes that it took about a year to build consensus around this approach in India. Other experts highlight that the strategy did not consult many local specialists. “Stephane Doyon, leader of the Medecins Sans Frontieres nutrition team, said that while the initiative is a good plug for nutrition, it probably requires more consultation and a rigorous engagement at the grassroots,” according to the article.

Mamady Daffe, head of the nutrition unit at the Guinea Health Ministry, and Milla McLachlan, a UNICEF nutrition consultant, are also quoted in the piece (10/14).

In related news, Inter Press Service reports on a U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) report on food security and nutrition in Latin America and the Caribbean released on Wednesday.

“The report says stronger links are needed between economic growth and social inclusion. … Several countries in the region have implemented policies to support food production, organise trade and markets for food and agriculture, and provide social protection and food aid. … However, not all of them have yielded the expected results, either because they were still at the pilot stage, or were not integrated with other social and productive policies, [Jose da Silva, the FAO’s regional representative and assistant director-general,] said.”

Fernando Soto, coordinator of the policies group at the FAO regional office in Santiago, said, “We cannot have growth on the one hand, and on the other create social programmes for the people who are excluded from that growth. There is a limit to this: it’s called public debt.”

To that end, the FAO recommends “supporting a greater role for family agriculture in food supply and improving the regulation and oversight of agricultural and labour markets, which are key factors affecting rural poverty, according to the regional report,” IPS writes (Estrada, 10/13).  

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