UN urged to include acute malnutrition indicator in SDGs

Generation Nutrition campaign ambassador Eufemia Mahimpit says such an indicator will be a key component of ending world hunger

Mara Cepeda

Published: 6:5 AM June 12, 2015

Updated: 4:52 AM September 21, 2015

FACE OF MALNUTRITION. A malnourished boy, Cholib Akbar, 18 months old, at a medical clinic with his mother in Bogor, West Java, in June 2005. File photo by EPA

MANILA, Philippines – International civil society campaign Generation Nutrition asked the United Nations (UN) to include an indicator for acute malnutrition or wasting in the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

The SDGs comprise the new development agenda set by the UN to replace the Millennium Development Goals starting this year. (READ: Rio+20 adopts sustainable development blueprint)  

SDG No. 2 aims to end hunger by ensuring food security, improving nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture. One of its targets is reducing the prevalence of wasting, or the “recent rapid weight loss or a failure to gain weight” among children under 5 years old by 2025. (READ: Learning on an empty stomach)

However, Generation Nutrition campaign ambassador Eufemia Mahimpit pointed out that the UN Statistical Bureau did not include an indicator for wasting in its latest technical report.

Mahimpit said the absence of such an indicator might signal that ending acute malnutrition is not a priority under the SDGs.

“Wasting is already included at target level in the proposals. It therefore seems logical to measure progress on the achievement of this component via a specific indicator on the global prevalence of wasting,” she said in a letter sent to UN Statistics Division director Stefan Schweinfest on May 28, a copy of which was sent to Rappler.

Mahimpit added, “If wasting is not included, it might send a signal that it is not a priority when it comes to assessing whether Target 2.2 has been met or not; efforts to combat the condition may not get the attention they deserve.”

Presently, nearly 20 million children under 5 suffer from severe acute malnutrition globally, leading to about a million deaths every year.

A key component

Mahimpit outlined in her letter several reasons why an indicator for wasting must be included in the SDGs.

She said that ending hunger-related deaths among children has to be a “priority for an SDG process that is committed to ‘leaving no one behind.’”

Mahimpit also said that stunting should not be considered as a proxy measure of wasting rates. “Though stunting and wasting are related, they are distinct types of child undernutrition. Many children who are wasted are not stunted and vice-versa.”

Stunting measures the height for age of children under 5 years old. (READ: Why you should care about stunting)

According to Mahimpit, wasting is already an “internationally agreed” indicator, with its inclusion in the 6 global targets on nutrition of the 2012 World Health Assembly.

“Measures to tackle wasting will be a key component of government strategies to bring down child mortality in the period of the SDGs,” she added.

Global effort

In the letter, Mahimpit said she hopes Schweinfest would “agree that there is a strong case for including an indicator on wasting in the indicator framework that the Inter-agency and Expert Group will be developing this year.”

The letter was co-signed by ACTION director Hannah Bowen, Women in Alternative Action-WAA Cameroon executive director Justine Kwachu Ngum Kumche, Association for Promotion of Sustainable Development (India) president Mange Ram Adhana, and John Coonrod, vice president of non-profit charitable organization, The Hunger Project.

Mahimpit’s letter is part of Generation Nutrition’s ongoing efforts to intensify its campaign against child undernutrition and acute malnutrition. (READ: End hunger for today's and tomorrow's generation)

The campaign has 3 main objectives:

For every child under 5 suffering from acute malnutrition to have access to appropriate and high-quality treatment

For prevention strategies to be enhanced to stop children developing acute malnutrition in the first place

For action on acute malnutrition to be featured strongly in all major global and national initiatives to tackle poverty, including the post-2015 development framework. – Rappler.com

To know more about Generation Nutrition, you may visit their website here.

You may also send your video materials, campaigns, and stories to move.ph@rappler.com. Be part of the #HungerProject.