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The Zero Hunger Challenge – Advisory note for action

View the full Advisory Note on “Zero stunted children less than two years”

I. Definition

Stunting, or being too short for one’s age, is defined as a height or length for age more than two standard deviations below the World Health Organization (WHO) Child Growth Standards median.

Zero stunted children less than two years: 2.3 percent is the maximum level of stunting prevalence, in order for a country to have achieved zero stunting.

II. Policy measures

Sound policy recommendations about this element have been made in the WHO Stunting Policy Brief, in the ZHC Regional Guiding Framework for Achieving Zero Hunger in Asia and the Pacific and in the ICN2 Framework for Action. With reference to non-UN stakeholders the Private Sector and the Civil Society have active platforms both in the SUN Movement and the Committee on World Food Security (CFS). The UN Agencies with a mandate in nutrition have endorsed the UN Global Nutrition Agenda (UNGNA) — a broad framework providing strategic directions for the next five years. The REACH partnership produced also valuable input.

III. Metrics

New global, regional and national stunting estimates for children under 5 years of age are available from 1990 to 2014, showing that stunting has declined from 39.6 to 23.8 percent but that progress is uneven in regions and by income group. A tracking tool to assist countries set targets and monitor progress is available. The new SUN Movement strategy includes a SMART target on stunting.

A Global Monitoring Framework on Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition includes a core set of 21 indicators and has been approved by the WHA. Continued advocacy to include appropriate nutrition indicators within the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development indicator framework is needed.

IV. Messaging

The ICN2 focused global attention on addressing malnutrition in all its forms and committed Member States to eradicate hunger and prevent all forms of malnutrition worldwide, including stunting. The new SDGs 2030 Development Agenda includes a goal on zero hunger and a target 2.2 to “end all forms of malnutrition, including achieving, by 2025, the internationally agreed targets on stunting and wasting in children under 5 years of age and address the nutritional needs of adolescent girls, pregnant and lactating women and older persons”. The HLTF should draw attention to the comprehensiveness, the multi-sectoral nature, and the global scope of this nutrition agenda. A solid set of nutrition indicators for the SDG indicator framework is needed and advocacy needs to continue to ensure this.

Even under challenging contexts of natural and man-made disasters and conflict situations, the ZHC aspirations need to be realized.  Malnutrition in all its forms needs to be addressed and eradicated in any context.

V. Conclusion

Stunting can be eradicated in our lifetime. Commitments have been made (WHA targets, ICN2, SDGs), the indicators are identified, the tools for tracking are available for countries, the resources are being increasingly mobilized, and stakeholders are working to achieve this common goal.

Stunting reduction success stories are emerging in different regions and settings:  Ethiopia, Rwanda, Tanzania, Burkina Faso, Niger and the Indian State of Maharashtra are striking examples. We need to continue on this path to achieve the target of ‘zero stunted children’ by working together efficiently at all levels.  The ZHC is a continued beacon of inspiration and aspiration to get the job done by 2030.

In order to reach the 2025 WHA global target of a 40 percent reduction in the number of stunted children — from 171 million in 2012 to 102 million in 2025 — the annual average rate of reduction (AARR) is 3.9 percent. With concerted efforts to decrease stunting prevalence, such as through the Scaling Up Nutrition movement, combined with reduced rates of population growth, it should be possible to maintain or accelerate this rate of improvement by 5 years (i.e. to 2030)

If the same AARR rate of 3.9 percent continues until 2030, the estimated number of stunted children should not exceed 86 million. This translates roughly to a 50 percent reduction in numbers of stunted children compared to the 2012 baseline. With supportive and concerted UN efforts, increased investments and multi-sector, multi-stakeholder cooperation, countries can eliminate stunting in our lifetime.

The UN SG Ban Ki-moon, in his opening address to the assembly, urged all “to look beyond national boundaries and short-term interests and act in solidarity for the long-term. We can no longer afford to think and work in silos.”