The Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement is working to foster multi-stakeholder collaboration to end malnutrition.
According to the most recent State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World, malnutrition in all its forms remains a global challenge. In 2020, stunting affected an estimated 149.2 million children under the age of five years. In addition, 45.4 million children suffered from wasting and 38.9 million children were overweight.
Gerda Verburg, Coordinator of the SUN Movement, argues that too often, solutions focus solely on calories, instead of nutrition. But, she says, nutrition is critical and extends far beyond the wellbeing of the individual.
“[Nutrition] is, of course, health,” Verburg tells Food Tank. “But it’s also…nutritious and healthy and affordable and available food. It is social protection. It is education.” She explains that malnourishment inhibits children’s development, making it harder for them to excel in school, secure a job, and maintain a family.
The SUN Movement works to improve nutrition by bringing together civil society actors, donor and United Nations agencies, and the private sector. In each of the 65 SUN member countries, this group helps their country embrace solutions to address the underlying causes of malnutrition.
This work, Verburg argues, is essential to support women and children, who are particularly vulnerable to global shocks including the COVID-19 pandemic, supply chain disruptions caused by political conflict, and the climate crisis. “In many countries…women eat last and very often least,” Verburg tells Food Tank. She continues, “They are very often the first to be hit, they will be hit hardest, and they will be hit longest.”
To support these vulnerable groups, the organization is looking to invest in and scale up country-specific interventions. “What do we need at the community level to take care of our children?” Verburg asks. “What kind of food system do we need? How do we make sure that all children get the right level of breastfeeding and support? How do we support our women?”
The Movement sees that at the national and sub-national level mayors, governors, and religious leaders are mobilizing, motivated to answer these questions. “They are aware of the fact that they can drive their own dignity and their own prosperity,” Verburg says.
And despite challenges, Verburg remains committed to this work. “I’m always hopeful,” she tells Food Tank, “because being pessimistic is not an option.”
Listen to the full conversation with Gerda Verburg on “Food Talk with Dani Nierenberg” to learn more about the link between malnutrition and the climate crisis, the SUN Movement’s first official youth network in Côte d’Ivoire, and why Verburg says that stunted people creates a “stunted economy.”
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Photo courtesy of Patrick Mcgregor, Unsplash