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Global action plan on child wasting - Accelerating progress in preventing and managing child wasting and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals

Author: World Health Organisation
Year: 2020
Resource type: Report

Introduction

In 2015, the world committed to eliminating all forms of malnutrition by 2030 as part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). To do so, the SDGs incorporated the World Health Assembly targets to reduce the proportion of children suffering from wasting[1] to <5% by 2025, and <3% by 2030.

Yet, since these targets were adopted, the proportion of wasted children has remained largely unchanged[2]. Today, an estimated 7.3% (50 million) of all children under five suffer from wasting at any given time[3]. Three-quarters of these children live in development settings, while the remainder are affected by humanitarian crisis. Wasting affects children in virtually every continent on the planet, but the largest number of children suffering from wasting are today found in South Asia. 

To achieve the SDG targets on wasting and undernutrition, a crucial policy shift is needed, increasing efforts to prevent all forms of malnutrition. There is an urgent need to develop and scale-up radically improved solutions addressing the fundamental drivers of malnutrition. The immediate drivers are well known:  frequent common childhood illnesses, unhealthy diets, and low birth weight. Children in disadvantaged circumstances experience recurrent infections and may not receive the right food at the right time or have increased, but unmet, requirements for essential nutrients due to preventable illnesses; infants born with low birth weight are vulnerable to further growth failure in the first year. The underlying drivers of wasting are, however, complex and vary across seasons, regions and contexts, but include environmental conditions, inadequate or lack of hygiene and sanitation, household food insecurity and lack of age-appropriate caregiver and child interactions. Such conditions are in turn the consequence of inadequate functioning of food, health and other systems, including social protection. Emergencies and disasters may trigger or aggravate the incidence of child wasting.

The fragmented response by actors, including the UN System, and unpredictable financing limits the effectiveness and efficiency of treatment coverage for children. Therefore, a more purposeful, systematic, transparent and accountable collaboration that leverages the collective strengths of all stakeholders – including governments, UN agencies, civil society and the private sector- more effectively is urgently needed to help countries accelerating progress in the forthcoming “decade of delivery” on the wasting-related SDGs and WHA targets. 

Draft of the Global Action Plan on child wasting document

On 14th July 2019, the Principals of the UN agencies directly involved in the prevention and treatment of child wasting issued a joint statement calling for greater action to address this urgent problem. In that statement, the agencies committed to putting together a Global Action Plan (GAP) for the prevention and treatment of child wasting. This lead to a series of regional consultations amongst UN agencies and their partners in Africa and Asia. This consultation helped identify current challenges and future opportunities to accelerate progress on child wasting. On 5th December, a consultation with CSOs, bilateral donors and other partners took place, providing additional specific suggestions for the focus, principles and priorities under the GAP. Finally, a three-day Technical Consultation was organized by WHO on 16th-19th December 2019 bringing together academics and field technicians with the goal of further describing key technical and research priorities to be included under the GAP.

This first draft of the GAP aims to capture key elements of these discussions and consultations and offer an opportunity for all stakeholders to further contribute to the revision and expansion of the GAP. We have not yet defined the level of ambition for all the commitments (marked with an “X”), the emphasis having been on what the priorities should be.  These will be completed before finalization of the GAP including the suggestions received. Upon completion of this public consultation, the UN agencies (under the leadership of WHO) will consolidate all inputs and produce a final draft of the GAP to be endorsed by the Principals of the five UN agencies (FAO, UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, WHO). Our aim is to have a final draft of the GAP available by 24th February 2020.

The endorsed GAP, along with immediate UN actions to support its implementation will be shared publicly in early March 2020. Discussions to identify commitments and actions by governments and other key stakeholders will continue throughout 2020, with the aim to release the action plan at the Tokyo Nutrition for Growth (N4G) Summit, to be held in December 2020.

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World Health Organisation (2020). Global action plan on child wasting - Accelerating progress in preventing and managing child wasting and the achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. www.ennonline.net/globalactionplanonchildwasting

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