The Global Nutrition Report 2014: Actions and accountability to accelerate the world’s progress on nutrition

3rd July 2015
GNR4Cover(Originally posted in November 2014).

The Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in the post-2015 world will require healthy and well-nourished populations that contribute to economic growth and equitable development in all countries and across the globe. Good nutrition is key to achieving the ambitious targets set out in the SDG framework, and improving nutrition remains a major challenge of the 21st century.

The Global Nutrition Report 2014 is the first in an annual series that assesses progress in improving nutrition status across the globe, identifies obstacles to change, emphasizes potential for action, and enhances nutrition accountability mechanisms. The report series was called for by the 90+ signatories of the Nutrition for Growth Summit (N4G) in 2013. It is delivered by an Independent Group of Experts in collaboration with a large number of external partners and is supported by a wide-ranging group of stakeholders.

The Global Nutrition Report 2014 brings together 82 indicators on nutrition status, determinants, intervention coverage, and resources for all 193 UN member countries, which are available online as individual country profiles aimed at helping nutrition champions assess progress in nutrition and advocate for greater action at the country level.

The Report presents analyses of these data to assess global progress in improving nutrition and related determinants, and to recognise country-level experiences in relation to regional and global trends. In addition to highlighting key areas for action, the Report makes recommendations of measures that can be taken to accelerate malnutrition reduction. It also assesses signatories’ self-reported progress towards the N4G compact, and acts as an accountability mechanism for the financial and non-financial commitments made by countries, donors, business and civil society organizations at the summit.

A key finding of the Report is that malnutrition affects nearly every country in the world. For the 122 countries in the world with comparable data, all except two experience at least one of three common forms of malnutrition at levels that are of public health significance: adult overweight, under-5 stunting, or anaemia in women of reproductive age. The co-existence of different forms of malnutrition is so widespread that dealing with multiple burdens of malnutrition can be considered the “new normal”.

The Report examines the world’s progress towards meeting the nutrition targets for 2025 agreed to by the World Health Assembly in 2012, concluding that it is off-course. Many countries have made progress in improving nutrition outcomes, but at the global level, little progress is being made in decreasing rates for anaemia, low birth weight, wasting in children under age five, and over¬weight in children under age five. Progress in increasing exclusive breastfeeding rates has been slow, and while more progress has been made in reducing stunting rates in children under five, it is insufficient to meet the global target.

Improvements in the underlying drivers of nutrition – such as education, sanitation and hygiene, and healthcare – as well as the low coverage levels of nutrition-specific interventions – such as vitamin A supplementation and zinc treatment for diarrhoea – are examined in the Report. It also recommends that policies that support nutrition action can be measured and must be strengthened to tackle undernutrition, as well as the growing scourge of nutrition-related non-communicable diseases. The Report demonstrates how tracking financial resources available for nutrition is challenging, but states that measuring donor spending on nutrition can be achieved with better co-ordination across the different actors.

Underlying many of the obstacles to improved nutrition are large data gaps, highlighted in the Report, which can impede action, progress and accountability. In addition to more data collection, it is essential to strengthen the quality and comparability of data collection efforts, and to make better use of existing data across the globe. Nutrition needs a data revolution for healthy and well-nourished populations.

At its core, the Report, and the relevant country profile, aims to empower national nutrition champions to advocate for greater leadership, resourcing, research and capacity for improved nutrition in every country.

The stakeholders and contributors of the Global Nutrition Report 2014 see it as more than just a report, but as an intervention that reframes the way we view and act on malnutrition in every country in the world.