Seven can’t-miss moments for global nutrition in 2023
This year is set to be another critical one for driving nutrition action. We've highlighted the seven key moments to watch for this year.
Posted on January 11, 2023
This year is set to be another critical one for driving nutrition action. COVID-19, conflict and climate change continue to pose a triple threat to good nutrition, especially for women, girls, and children. Yet there are concrete reasons for hope. Leaders across Africa are standing up to prioritize nutrition and put the needs of women and girls at the center. The needs of children never reached by health and nutrition services are receiving much needed attention. The linkages between nutrition and climate are being analyzed, to drive action. And new WHA resolutions could pave the way to a more fortified world. Here are some of the key moments that we’ll be watching and engaging with in 2023:
What to watch for: Increased scrutiny of the Continental Nutrition Scorecard championed by the African Leaders for Nutrition, and new strategies and plans being launched throughout the year, including a new continental anaemia strategy, and an adolescent nutrition advocacy strategy by the East Central Southern Africa Health Community. Check out the Abidjan Declaration 2022 signed by AU Member States at a high-level meeting on the AU’s 2022 theme of nutrition security which took place in December. The declaration is a call to translate commitments to action to accelerate investment, implementation, and coordination to improve nutrition and food security on the continent.
Why it matters: Recognizing nutrition’s critical role in achieving human capital gains, the AU declared 2022 the Year of Nutrition – and recommended an extension into 2023 – and called on governments and partners to lean in. Nutrition International is partnering with the AU, World Health Organization (WHO) and other agencies to develop new continental strategies on anaemia reduction, adolescent nutrition, support for nutrition advocacy, and strengthening data collection, economic modelling, and domestic resource mobilization.
What to watch for: The inclusion of weekly iron and folic acid supplements on the revised WHO Model Lists of Essential Medicines.
Why it matters: The WHO Model Lists of Essential Medicines (EML) is a key document used by governments to determine which medicines to prioritize as part of their national essential medicine list and national health package. Medicines on the EML are prioritized for availability through functioning health systems, and should be available in adequate quantities and dosages, and at prices public health programs can afford. Weekly iron and folic acid supplements are one of a handful of proven interventions to prevent anaemia in menstruating adolescent girls and women and, should they become pregnant, reduce the risk of neural tube defects for their babies. While production of these supplements to date has been limited, their inclusion on the model EML would increase demand and should work to shape the global market and drive affordable production. This could be a critical step to accelerating anemia reduction efforts for adolescent girls.
What to watch for: Increased focus from key global actors, including GAVI (the vaccine alliance) and Nutrition International, on reaching zero-dose children, including through new and innovative uses of technology, and a growing narrative around the “fully protected child.” Nutrition International is also increasing support to government-led vitamin A delivery, which will reach ore than 42 million children under five through long-term program support, and a further 100 million children through our capsule donation program.
Why it matters: For children to be fully protected from life-threatening disease, they must have access to both life-saving vaccines and good nutrition. According to the WHO, access to vaccines and vitamin A supplementation fell during the pandemic: adequate coverage of vitamin A supplementation dropped to 41% and 25 million children were under-vaccinated or unvaccinated – 18 million of whom are “zero dose”, or children who have never received a vaccine. While early signs of recovery have been reported, urgent action and investment are needed to accelerate coverage, especially for the 67 million children at risk of not receiving vitamin A this year and 22.7 million who are under-immunized.
What to watch for: A Government of Colombia-led resolution on the mandatory fortification of staple foods – if it is approved to be included on the May World Health Assembly agenda at the 152nd meeting of WHO’s Executive Board at the end of January 2023.
Why it matters: If passed, this resolution will go a long way towards strengthening fortification regulations around the world, carving a path to increased commitment, investment, and program reach and quality. This resolution could also help recast fortification as a global intervention suitable for high-income and low-income nations alike to improve nutrition and overall health and prevent disability. Nutrition International works closely with governments and staple food producers around the world to improve food fortification regulations and their implementation, and to increase support for high quality fortified foods.
What to watch for: New insights, strategies and tools for reaching and meeting the needs of adolescent girls and boys at scale, as well as nutrition being positioned as a pathfinder for broader adolescent health services in contexts where sexual and reproductive health and rights and other services are more controversial. Deeper exploration of the role of nutrition and health services for gender equality, prevention of early pregnancy and forced marriage.
Why it matters: There are more than 1.8 billion adolescents (aged 10-19) in the world today – the largest cohort in history. Investing in adolescents improves their health now and in the future. It is critical for achieving gender equality and contributes to better health outcomes for future generations. Despite this, investments in adolescent health and nutrition have woefully lagged, leading experts to call adolescent malnutrition a “hidden crisis” and “lost opportunity.” Nutrition International is working with adolescent girls and their communities and governments to improve nutrition policies and programs, reach girls and boys both in and out of school, and make the critical growth and development period of adolescence a global priority, recognizing access to improved nutrition as an entry point for promoting gender equality during a time when inequities multiply.
What to watch for: New analyses unpacking the impacts of COVID, climate change and conflict on human nutrition. Renewed calls to ensure global responses to the present food crises are nutrition-smart. Updates on global and regional work on anaemia, vitamin A supplementation, across a host of other themes.
Why it matters: A smart global nutrition agenda must balance both urgent and long-term needs, both nutrition prevention and treatment actions, both high coverage activities with those that build systems to sustain program coverage overtime. The present food crises have focused considerable attention on urgent, treatment-oriented investments, which are undoubtedly critical, but insufficient to protect the health and futures of vulnerable people. This year’s forum could play a key role in showcasing the latest evidence to inform a balanced global agenda, focused on evidence-based actions that drive resilience and sustainability.
What to watch for: Increasing recognition of the impacts of climate change on nutrition, and the need to make climate actions nutrition-smart. Advocacy, tools and programs aimed at supporting the inclusion of nutrition in climate action plans. Updates on key nutrition and climate initiatives launched at COP 26 (the Alliance for Transformative Action on Climate and Health) and COP 27 (the Initiative on Climate and Nutrition).
Why it matters: Changing global temperatures, rising CO2 levels, flooding and drought, and the loss of pollinators are all threatening to reduce both the quantity and quality of nutrient-rich foods. At the same time, climate change-related increases in waterborne disease may increase the need for nutrition interventions. Ensuring access to adequate nutrition needs to be part of climate change solutions moving forward, including the prioritization of food fortification, supplementation, and breastfeeding. COP 28 will be an important moment for leading nutrition and climate change practitioners to coalesce around a shared agenda for human health and wellbeing, rooted in nutrition-smart climate change actions.
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