Food and nutrition security - nutrition

Food and nutrition security - nutrition

Food and nutrition security - nutrition

Action Plan on Nutrition Progress Report 2016

Interactive map of Nutrition: Country Profiles and Country Child Stunting Trends


Second Progress Report on the Commission's Action Plan on Nutrition 2016 - 2017

First Progress Report on the Commission's Action Plan on Nutrition 2014- 2016 (PDF)

EU policy on nutrition- Overview

Access to food remains a challenge in itself. Beyond this crucial question, ensuring that food, once obtained, provides adequate nutrition is another key point. Improving nutrition in developing countries means enabling poor people, and notably mothers and children, to adopt or maintain diets of sufficient nutritional value and to access health care and safe water.

The World Health Organization estimates that undernutrition poses the greatest risk to health in developing countries. Globally, 3.1 million children under the age of five die every year as a result of insufficient nutrition, representing 45% of all deaths of children under five years of age. Long-term undernutrition (stunting, frequent episodes of wasting, or micronutrient deficiencies) causes devastating and irreversible damage.

About 34 countries are home to 90% of those of the world's children who suffer from stunting or chronic undernutrition. The prevalence of child stunting remains high throughout Africa and Asia, particularly in comparison to more developed regions.

Nutrition is affected by sectors such as agriculture, food security, social protection, health, education, water and sanitation. As the factors shaping nutrition are multi-sectoral, so are the interventions that must combine to achieve improvements: better nutrition is related to improved food production, greater food security and diversified diets; better infant, child and maternal health; stronger immune systems; safer pregnancy and childbirth; lower risk of non-communicable diseases; and longevity and improved access to water and adequate sanitation. Healthy children learn better. People with adequate nutrition are more productive and can seize or create opportunities to gradually break the cycles of poverty and hunger, thereby contributing to future wealth creation.

The economic costs of undernutrition have been estimated at 10% of an individual’s lifetime earnings in some countries. Recent estimates suggest that 11% of GDP in Africa and Asia is lost to undernutrition every year.

The scale of the problem

Globally, around 165 million, or a quarter of the world's children, suffer from stunting – i.e. from chronic undernutrition, with a low height for their age and impaired cognitive development. Global progress on addressing stunting has been slow. The proportion of children who are stunted fell from 40% in 1990 to 26% in 2011 – with an average annual rate of reduction of 2.1% during this period.

Around 52 million (8%) of the world’s under-five children are affected by wasting, in other words they suffer from acute undernutrition resulting in weight loss. Progress in addressing wasting has been slow and shows that far more needs to be done. As many as 10 to 20% of the women in sub-Saharan Africa and 25 to 35% of the women in South Asia are classified as excessively thin. Across Asia and Africa, 18 and 16% respectively of babies are born with low birth weight.

Micronutrients – substances that are essential for people’s health, growth and development – are another aspect. Micronutrient deficiencies affect almost two billion people worldwide. The risk of having a small baby is high for mothers who are underweight, stunted or anaemic.

The World Health Assembly in May 2012 set a new global target to reduce the number of children exposed to stunting by 70 million (reduction of 40%).

A prominent contribution

Through its development cooperation, the EU has played a leading role in tackling hunger for many years. It believes in addressing all aspects related to poverty and hunger and seeks to support access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food for all and at all times.

In 2008, the EU set up a €1 billion Food Facility which benefited 150 million people across the world. Around 80 projects (out of 232) specifically addressed nutrition and safety net measures.

The EU is leading in the efforts to raise awareness of the devastating consequences of ‘hidden hunger’, or undernutrition, and the need to scale up interventions to tackle it. It has stepped up to remain at the forefront of global efforts to eradicate hunger and undernutrition in the world, with a particular emphasis on reducing undernutrition in children.

The 2013 EU policy on nutrition outlines a strategic framework to tackle undernutrition from both the development and humanitarian perspective. It spells out aims to enhance maternal and child nutrition by reducing mortality and morbidity as well as growth and development deficiencies due to undernutrition. More specifically it aims to achieve specific objectives at two levels:

  • reducing the number of children under five years of age who are stunted;
  • reducing the number of children under five years of age who are wasted.

Three strategic priorities are outlined:

  • The EU aims at a stronger mobilisation and political commitment for nutrition at country and international level (inter alia through the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement).
  • In order to enable a sustainable change for people suffering from undernutrition, nutrition interventions will be stepped up at country level.
  • The EU will invest in applied research and support information systems. It will also provide technical expertise for the implementation of support.

EU assistance is, to the largest extent possible, aligned with the policies and priorities of the benefiting partner countries, in line with aid effectiveness principles. Addressing undernutrition requires recognition of the problem by partner countries and a commitment to tackling it. The international community will do all it can to support partner countries in their efforts to enhance maternal and child nutrition, but resources also need to be set aside by governments themselves to ensure that undernutrition is tackled in a sustainable way.

An international alliance

Development Commissioner Piebalgs is part of the lead group of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, which is founded on the principle that all people have a right to food and good nutrition. SUN has been successful in building broad global alliances to move nutrition higher up the international development agenda and ensure stronger political commitment to reducing stunting. It involves a wide variety of partners, including governments, civil society and the United Nations as well as donors, businesses and researchers.

Together, these partners intend to reduce the number of children under five affected by stunting by at least 7 million as a contribution towards the World Health Assembly’s goal for 2025. In order to help transform these political commitments into actions and investments, the EU has pledged to commit considerable energy and resources. It is mobilising €3.5 billion between 2014 and 2020.

The EU has adopted an Action Plan on Nutrition that will describe the actions leading to the attainment of this goal. In line with its policy framework, the EU is also working to develop an accountability framework to monitor commitments and impact and has taken the lead, in close collaboration with other key partners, in developing the appropriate tools for this purpose. The Action Plan is foreseen to be finalised in 2014.