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Rallying the Health Sector to Focus on Nutrition

Reaching out to the World Health Organization in advance of an important conference
Children smiling
Proper nutrition brings smiling faces! Photo: ACF File.

In 1992, representatives from nearly 160 countries and many organizations working to fight hunger and undernutrition met to discuss their strategies and tools for this work at the first International Conference on Nutrition (ICN). The key work products developed at the conference – notably the World Declaration on Nutrition and Plan of Action for Nutrition – as well as the hard work done to fulfill them, have contributed to reducing undernutrition over the past two decades. This November, 21 years later, many of the same partners and some new ones will meet again at the International Conference on Nutrition + 21 (ICN+21) to explore how our work combating hunger has progressed since the first ICN and to identify policies to speed and scale-up improvements in global nutrition.

Since ending undernutrition will require coordinated work in many areas, including agriculture and food security, sustainable livelihoods, health systems, education and water, sanitation, and hygiene, the conference will strive to enhance the ways in which collaborative work across these areas can  improve nutrition. The health sector has a particularly important role to play in nutrition, since health centers provide treatment for severely malnourished children and other health conditions that contribute to undernutrition.

The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and World Health Organization (WHO) are co-organizing the ICN+21, determining the agenda, and identifying experts to represent their fields. Action Against Hunger strongly supports FAO’s planning work and efforts to examine the connections between agriculture and food security at the conference. However, we, along with nonprofits like Concern, Helen Keller International, the International Center for Research on Women, International Medical Corps, Save the Children and Valid International, also want to make sure that the upcoming conference will sufficiently emphasize the importance of having multiple parties and sectors work together to improve nutrition.

“The health sector has a particularly important role to play in nutrition, since health centers provide treatment for severely malnourished children and other health conditions that contribute to undernutrition”

—Lily Frey, Advocacy Officer, Action Against Hunger

As a result, we wrote the following letter to Ms. Margaret Chan, Director General of WHO, to encourage WHO and the health sector to become more involved in the planning for the conference. We think the ICN+21 can help empower governments and civil society to strengthen our work to save lives and eliminate undernutrition, and look forward to the important discussions with our expert colleagues from different sectors this November. 

Tell Us What You Think

Why do you think collaboration is so important to achieving key goals in the fight against hunger? In your own education or career, how has collaboration fostered growth and learning?

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