Addis Ababa — A groundbreaking meeting in the Ethiopian capital this week has strengthened efforts to scale up nutrition initiatives under the Renewed Efforts Against Child Hunger and Undernutrition initiative, known as REACH.
It has been the largest-scale gathering of the REACH partnership since the initiative was established in 2008. It brought together technical experts and officials from four UN agencies in all 12 countries where the REACH approach is being followed, as well as from the host country, Ethiopia.
The REACH partnership is about joint, coordinated UN support of national governments to expand and link several interventions into one global approach in the fight against malnutrition. The Addis Ababa meeting provided an unprecedented opportunity for partners who are battling undernutrition to learn from each other and build on the work they are doing in different parts of the globe.
"This is the first time we've gotten together on this scale to learn the lessons from 13 countries in Africa and Asia about how to scale up nutrition in practice," said Nancy Walters, the REACH Global Coordinator. "Addressing undernutrition is a first and basic precondition for development and growth to take root. UN agencies, governments, NGOs and the private sector are joining efforts to reduce mother and child undernutrition."
The meeting heard how Ethiopia has successfully cut stunting rates from 57 percent to 44 percent in 10 years. Delegates from the UN in Sierra Leone outlined how they built a national multi-sector nutrition strategy. UN delegates from Mozambique, Tanzania and Uganda explained how public awareness helped improve nutrition, and how district-level actions helped to translate policies into action on the ground. Participants also shared case studies from other countries, such as Mali, Mauritania, Nepal, Ghana, Rwanda, Niger, Chad and Bangladesh.
The meeting included representatives from WHO, FAO, UNICEF and WFP as well as technical experts in nutrition, health, agriculture and food security - all of which are critical to tackling nutrition problems in the critical first thousand days of a child's life.
Undernourished children suffer irreversible damage to their physical and cognitive development, which affects their health and ability to learn and ultimately the growth of a nation.
REACH was initially established by the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), World Health Organization (WHO), United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) and the UN World Food Programme (WFP) as a way to support achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, and the initiative now includes many other UN agencies and partners on the ground.