Recently the British magazine The Lancet published their second series on malnutrition. Three of the key authors joined a seminar organised by the Netherlands Working Group on Nutrition, which is chaired by Marianne van Dorp of the Centre for Development Innovation, Wageningen UR.
The seminar NL for NIL malnutrition was held at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in The Hague. Special Envoy for Food and Nutrition Security, Paulus Verschuren, kicked it off by expressing his excitement about the publication of the 2013 Lancet series on malnutrition, which consists of four papers. The first paper, discussing prevalence and consequences of malnutrition, was introduced by Professor Robert Black of the Bloomberg School of Public Health. Black presented evidence that 45% of child deaths can be attributed to malnutrition. This is worrying, as the number of children suffering from malnutrition is still increasing due to high population growth.
“The absence of evidence is not the evidence of absence”
The first presentation set the scene for an interesting morning session. A presentation by Professor Zulfiqar Bhutta (Aga Khan University) on the effects of direct nutrition interventions was followed by a presentation by Professor Lawrence Haddad (Institute for Development Studies) on nutrition sensitive interventions and enabling environment. Haddad argued that there is little evidence on the effects of nutrition sensitive interventions. However, there are a number of promising interventions that are to be unleashed in the near future and that could potentially provide an evidence base.
Promising times ahead
After addresses from David Nabarro (UN Special Representative on Food Security and Nutrition), Martin Bloem (WFP) and Bonnie McClafferty (Director Agriculture and Nutrition Security at GAIN) in support of nutrition sensitive interventions, a panel discussion with representatives from private sector, civil society, knowledge institutes, government, and the UN acknowledged that an evidence base in relation to nutrition sensitive interventions is needed. However, the panel in discussion with the audience emphasised that nutrition sensitive interventions should be given a chance to prove potential impact. The coming years will be exciting as these interventions are for the first time implemented by a wide variety of actors.
The Lancet is a British weekly magazine that is highly regarded in the world of science and medicine. In 2008 it published a series on malnutrition that played a key role in pushing nutrition higher up the development agenda and proved to be a game changer in addressing global malnutrition. For example, it made a successful case for using stunting as a key indicator for malnutrition.