Action Plan on Nutrition
Interactive map of Nutrition: Country Profiles and Country Child Stunting Trends
EU policy on nutrition- Overview
the most serious and preventable tragedies of our time.”
This opening sentence to the EU’s policy on nutrition captures the motivation behind the European Commission’s work in nutrition. The tragedy of poor nutrition disproportionately affects the most vulnerable (particularly children and women), the poorest and the least educated; these are the people who stand to gain the most from improved nutrition. Good nutrition is a basic human right, as well as a precondition for the realisation of an individual’s full potential.
The scale of the problem
All forms of malnutition are a human tragedy:
Stunting currently affects 151 million children aged below five years.
51 million children are wasted.
2 billion people suffer from micronutrient deficiencies (which can also be a factor driving stunting).
2 billion people are overweight or obese (with evidence suggesting that stunting in childhood may increase the risk of obesity later in life).
As if such human costs are not enough, there are also social and economic costs from poor nutrition. Low-income countries lose from 3% to 16% (or more) of their GDP each year. Poor nutrition reduces learning and productivity, so that average yearly income in adulthood is 22% lower. Poor nutrition and poor diets are in the top 10 risk factors for global disease burden, with knock-on health care costs and over-burden of basic services.
The European Commission’s response
We also know that investing in improving nutrition is one of the most effective investments, with average returns of 18 to 1 in high burden countries.
Recognising this, the European Union has been actively engaged helping to put undernutrition on the global agenda. In doing so, the EU has also set itself some extremely ambitious, but achievable, targets:
To support countries in reducing the number of stunted children under the age of five by at least 7 million by 2025 (a commitment made in 2012).
To allocate EUR 3.5 billion between 2014 and 2020 on nutrition interventions to help reduce stunting (a commitment made in 2013).
These commitments are institutionalised within the EU’s policy framework on nutrition: (i) the 2013 Commission Communication Enhancing Maternal and Child Nutrition in External Assistance, (ii) the associated Council Conclusions of May 2013 (iii) and the 2014 Action Plan on Nutrition setting out the way the Commission will deliver on its stunting target.
The EU’s focus on women, children and adolescent girls and the 1000-day window of opportunity are being realised under each of the three strategic priorities outlined in the Nutrition Communication and Action Plan:
Strategic priority 1: Enhance mobilization and political commitment for nutrition
Strategic priority 2: Scale up actions at country level
Strategic priority 3: Knowledge for nutrition (strengthening the expertise and the knowledge-base)
To maximise the impact of the Action Plan on Nutrition, the European Commission identified 42 countries of strategic priority for its support to nutrition. These countries had (i) a high burden of stunting (ii) a politically committed government; and (iii) requested support from the EU Delegations to address undernutrition.
And, in view of current challenges, the European Union is focusing on coupling effective nutrition-specific interventions that address the immediate determinants of poor nutrition, with nutrition-sensitive programmes that address the underlying causes.
For all three of the strategic priorities, the EU’s contribution is best maximized when synergies are created with the work of other actors, donors, researchers, private companies and civil society. This also related to collaborating more with, and with more, Member States and within the Commission.
One major focus of the EU effort has been in providing support to the Scaling-Up Nutrition (SUN) movement which is a unique initiative to strengthen inter-sectoral and inter-stakeholder cooperation by emphasizing the pivotal role of national governments leaderships. In addition, support is being provided to the Global Nutrition Report (GNR) as a critical contribution to global accountability in nutrition.
Progress achieved to date
Since 2016, annual progress reports have been published on the European Commission’s Action Plan on Nutrition (all links can be found above, under the Country Map). These are presented to the European Council to demonstrate the Commission’s assistance and advocacy on nutrition at country, regional and global levels.
The way forward
Looking to the future, the Commission’s priorities are to demonstrate as reliably as possible the achievement of its two commitments:
By continuing the proactive efforts in order to achieve the EUR 3.5 billion target by 2020.
By accelerating improvements in stunting reduction by integrating measures to address multiple forms of malnutrition in programmes, with particular concern for wasting, anaemia in women and adolescent girls and overweight and obesity.