Open letter to Dr Margaret Chan on WHO’s greater involvement in the preparation of the International Conference on Nutrition (ICN+21)

ACF International, Save the Children, Helen Keller International, International Medical Corps, Valid International, Concern and the International Center for Research on Women call on the Director General of the World Health Organization, Dr. Margaret Chan, to support further involvement of WHO in the preparation of the International Conference on Nutrition +21. Twenty one year after the first major international event on nutrition, this event should be considered as a unique opportunity to reaffirm the critical role of the health sector in the fight against undernutrition.

Dear Director-General,

The growing international focus on nutrition in recent years has produced a number of strategies directed towards scaling up nutrition-specific interventions and expanding nutrition-sensitive policies and practices. This is avowed in such global initiatives as the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, and the UN Renewed Efforts Against Child Hunger (REACH) initiative.

The WHO took a major step forward in the fight against malnutrition by endorsing the Comprehensive Implementation Plan on Maternal, Infant and Young Child Nutrition at the World Health Assembly in May 2012. In addition, your presence at the high level meeting on Scaling Up Nutrition at the 67 th United Nations General Assembly in September 2012 is a further significant demonstration of your support of and concern for the issue of malnutrition.

The International Conference on Nutrition + 21 (ICN+21) is a unique opportunity to engage and unite the international community for decades to come in a common fight against hunger and malnutrition. This high level conference will bring together food, agriculture, health, education, and other sectors to boost investment, provide guidance, build coherent policies and strategies in support of countries, and thus bolster global efforts to address malnutrition.

While we very much welcome the attention given to nutrition-sensitive topics (particularly agriculture and social protection) in the ICN+21 Concept Note, Strategic Framework for Action and suggested Framework for country papers, we, the undersigned organisations would like to express our concern at the lack of attention given to assessing and exploring progress and barriers to the scaling-up of the nutrition-specific interventions, as defined by the 2008 Lancet undernutrition series and redefined in 2010 by the World Bank. Indeed, the agenda and preparatory documents for the conference reveal a high prioritisation of food and agricultural issues. The guidelines for country nutrition papers include four topics that are largely oriented towards food and agriculture, while there is no specific question concerning contributions from the health sector. Furthermore, the topics of the papers within the Call for experts clearly prioritize food and agricultural topics.