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Private-public sector partnerships show success against malnutrition

By Stephen Daniells , 18-Nov-2010

Partnerships between the private sector and international developmental agencies are breeding success in tackling malnutrition in the world’s poorest.

An event in New York City, hosted by BASF, the Micronutrient Initiative, and the UN Global Compact, brought together about 100 nutrition experts from the private sector and international developmental agencies attended, to discuss how to capitalize on the private sector’s global reach and distribution systems to combat malnutrition.

“We need to be creative in bringing all sectors together and to capitalize on the vast distribution networks, management experience, technologies, research capacity and marketing skills of the private sector to enable improved nutrition for all,” said Venkatesh Mannar, president of the Micronutrient Initiative, an Ottawa-based, international not-for-profit organization.

The event – Addressing Malnutrition at the Base of Pyramid (BoP) – was intended to raise awareness, create a learning platform and initiate programs that address hunger and malnutrition worldwide.

Base of Pyramid (BoP) describes the largest, but poorest socio-economic population group of the income pyramid - globally, four billion people that live on less than $3000 per year.

Panel discussions

Representatives from the World Bank, UNICEF, USAID, GAIN, Maplecroft, Indonesian Coalition for Fortification, Kraft Foods, PepsiCo, and Banner, participated in four panel discussions focussing on the challenges and opportunities for decreasing malnutrition worldwide.

According to the hosts, the key points included, firstly, the limited opportunity to make a positive impact on a child’s health through nutrition, from pregnancy until two years of age, and that if this opportunity is missed, damage is irreversible. The second key point was that the micronutrient vitamin A, iron, zinc, folic acid, and iodine are the most impactful for fortifying foods.

Andreas Bluethner and Claus Soendergaard of BASF’s Food Fortification Team identified flour, sugar, vegetable oil, and milk products as the cost effective and add value to the BoP.

The final key point was that strategies must be part of market-focused and financially sustainable business cases, rather than just a part of a corporate social responsibility strategy.

“This platform for idea exchange demonstrated excellent spirit and trust between all stakeholders,” said Dr Martin Jager, Sr. Vice President BASF Nutrition. “We had the right people in the room who are committed to action.”

Guest of Honor

The event was concluded by the guest of honor, Dr David Nabarro, UN Special Representative for Food Security and Nutrition, who discussed the need for approaches for direct nutrition-specific interventions (NSIs), and developments to reduce and counteract the devastating effects of under-nutrition – specifically by promoting agriculture and food security to improve the availability, access to and consumption of nutritious foods.

Malnutrition is one of the world’s most serious but least addressed health problems and is an underlying factor in one-third of all child deaths.

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