The fight against malnutrition: a major challenge for sustainable development

Malnutrition is a global issue affecting every country in the world. It has a heavy social and economic impact which hinders the development of societies. In Malawi, for example, malnutrition costs 10% of annual GDP. It perpetuates certain social injustices. Adults who have suffered from stunted growth in their youth earn on average 22% less than their counterparts.

Fighting malnutrition creates a virtuous circle for sustainable development. A well-nourished person has a better economic and social standing and can live a healthy, active life, benefitting society as a whole. The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, adopted in New York in September 2015, sets a goal to improve nutrition (Sustainable Development Goal number 2).

What exactly is malnutrition ?  ?

This single term refers to three very different realities :
• Acute malnutrition is the most well-known form. It is this type of malnutrition that we see in famines or armed conflict. Every year, it is responsible for the deaths of over 3 million children under the age of five.
• Malnutrition can also be “chronic”, when people do not have access to a balanced diet and lack the necessary vitamins and nutrients to develop normally. For children, it can have long-term consequences. Children with stunted growth will have learning difficulties, slower physical development and will be more prone to contracting diseases.
• Excess weight and obesity are also forms of malnutrition. Overeating or an overly fatty diet can lead to diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular conditions. Some 2.5 million adults die each year from such diseases, half of them in developing countries.

French action to combat malnutrition

The French nutritional strategy addresses the fact that malnutrition is not only limited to food (availability of and access to safe, reasonably-priced, nutritious food) but encompasses health, a clean, healthy environment, and healthcare for mothers and children. France promotes a coordinated, multi-sector approach.

France is working at bilateral level and within European and international bodies.

At bilateral level

The fight against malnutrition is one of the priorities of France’s law on orientation and programming for development and international solidarity policies of 7 July 2014 (Law no. 2014-773).

In 2015, the French Ministry for Europe and Foreign Affairs began drawing up a 2016-2020 nutrition roadmap to identify the main areas of action and align with the priority which was placed on nutrition in the law on development and international solidarity policy. This roadmap was drawn up in collaboration with various French stakeholders in the sector (technical Ministries, research institutes, NGOs, private sector, etc.), under a subgroup of GISA, a multi-actor, multi-sector platform for food security and nutrition.

By 2020, the roadmap aims to improve how France is addressing nutrition in humanitarian programmes and development programmes and strategies. It is multi-sector and targets the sectors of health, food security (agricultural and rural development), water, hygiene and sanitation as well as urgent action such as food aid. This commitment was reiterated at the 2018 Interministerial International Cooperation and Development Committee (CICID).

France also contributes through its healthcare programmes, particularly as part of the Muskoka Initiative on Maternal, Newborn and Child Health which allocates 20% of its resources to the nutrition sector.

At international level

France is committed to increased, coordinated international and European mobilization for nutrition.

Within international forums (World Health Organization, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations, G7, G20), France is promoting coordinating and strengthening efforts to fight malnutrition. France is supporting the “Nutrition for Growth, N4G” Summits and the proclamation by the General Assembly of the United Nations of the Decade of Action on Nutrition for the 2016-2025 period. France has contributed to the Global Nutrition Report, which is a valuable, widely-consulted resource.

France is part of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement. Active in 56 countries, the Movement brings together actors involved in nutritional issues (participating countries, UN institutions, donors, private sector, civil society) and is working to implement appropriate and effective national policies to fight malnutrition through multi-sector platforms in each participating country.

Finally, France is supporting initiatives to further mobilize financing to help the fight against malnutrition.

Last updated : June 2018