24 February 2013

Africa: Making the Most of Nutrition 2013 - Unity, Polity and Clarity


What a year this is going to be for the collective efforts to reduce malnutrition rates throughout the world.

The torrent of events--scientific, rallying, and pledging--the reports (including the second Lancet series); the campaigns, speeches and op-eds--could combine to lead to increased investment in nutrition, better programmes, better policies, better data and improvements in nutrition status.

How to maximise the likelihood of this happening?

1. The nutrition community has to continue to stick together. We cannot let old squabbles resurface (e.g. food versus non-food; under vs over nutrition; diet vs micronutrient fortification/supplementation; private sector good vs bad). I was at a meeting last week on the MDGs and nutrition and there were faint reminders of how disparate the community used to be. The SUN movement has brought the community together and unity is more important than ever now.

2. The nutrition community has to engage with broader development processes. We are in the limelight right now but we are not the centre of the universe. There are dozens of similar communities, many much more powerful. We must appreciate this, understand the most relevant ones for us and work with the relevant polities, within their processes, to advance our own agenda by strategically supporting theirs.

3. Don't let the perfect be the enemy of the good when it comes to engaging with the general public. Like many other communities, much of the work done by the nutrition community is highly technical with many nuances. We must communicate clearly and simply and not be too precious.

So we need to be unified, aware of the wider context we are working in, and clear in our messaging. The nutrition community has been great on this in the past 3-4 years, but in 2013 the pressure is on like never before and we need to hold our nerve as this exciting year unfolds.

The premium on unity, polity and clarity has never been higher.

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