Ending hunger and malnutrition: How to leverage partnerships that work

Children eat lentils and cereals at a food distribution center in the Rwanda camp for internally displaced people in North Darfur. Photo by: Albert Gonzalez Farran / CC BY-NC-ND

The Sustainable Development Goals were created with the mindset that business as usual would not be enough to end poverty in all its forms and fight inequality. At its root, poverty is a result of inequality. In today’s food systems, the poor cannot access power, resources, and opportunities. The system is controlled by few, and poor and vulnerable people are further marginalized.

We were very pleased that the sustainable development agenda commits governments to ending hunger and malnutrition in all its forms. To truly achieve food and nutrition security for all, we must tackle the vicious cycle of malnutrition. When children are malnourished, it has permanent negative impacts on physical as well as cognitive development, meaning lower growth, learning, and earning potential. When families have not enough nutritious food, women and girls are most affected as they sacrifice for the rest of the families.

Partnering to fight childhood malnutrition: A case study

CARE works closely with the private sector to solve issues of food and nutrition insecurity. In particular, CARE and Amway have been working closely for several years, partnering with organizations addressing malnutrition through education, nutrition and feeding programs and supporting the incorporation of Nutrilite Little Bits, a micronutrient powder containing 15 vitamins and minerals essential, to healthy growth and development. In the past two years, CARE has supported Amway in the development of educational tools and a global monitoring and evaluation system and the program has grown from two to 15 countries, reaching thousands of children. By 2019 we aim to be working together in 20 countries. For more information on Nutrilite Little Bits, click here.

But achieving that laudable goal requires action on numerous fronts, including efforts to achieve gender equality and urgently tackle the climate crisis, a focus on supporting small-scale food producers grow more nutritious food and connect to market, and looking to governments, local and traditional authorities and market actors to ensure that actions to address inequality deliver for those food producers and people who need it the most.

We need to be sure we’re creating programs that commit to making changes for the most excluded people — especially women — and that we’re thinking about scale.

Women’s empowerment is key, not only for directing nutrition benefits such as household food distribution and infant and young child feeding, but also for maximizing the impact of nutrition in other sectors, such as agriculture.

Make progress, step by step

In the United States, that process is taking place via the Global Food Security Act. This act requires a comprehensive global strategy that places women at the center of the fight to end hunger and leverages taxpayer dollars by coordinating U.S. global food security programing — a zero-cost bill that demands sustainability from existing global food security programs. The bill was signed into law by President Barack Obama on July 20 and is a historic step towards reducing malnutrition worldwide.  

That being said, there is still a lot of work to be done to ensure the SDGs are reached. We would love every developing country government to enact their own food and nutrition security program for all and invest the necessary resources to make this a reality. Hunger and undernutrition should be history.

One way that CARE is working towards this goal is through “SuPER” food systems — those that are Sustainable, Productive, Equitable and Resilient. This is part of our aim to reach 50 million people by 2020, especially through partnerships across sectors.

Build on partnerships and leverage support

Building on success stories

At its root, poverty is a result of inequality. In today’s food systems, the poor — especially women — cannot access power, resources, and opportunities. CARE is working toward what we call “SuPER” food systems — those that are Sustainable, Productive, Equitable and Resilient. CARE promotes the right and ability of the poorest and most vulnerable to have the same access to nutritious foods and fair markets as everyone else.

In the Dominican Republic, for example, a young, 17-year-old mother approached our nutrition program with concerns about her one-month old baby who only weighed 4 pounds at birth and had only gained half a pound in the following month. The mother admitted she didn’t know how to properly care or feed her daughter, and she began attending educational workshops and counselling at the clinic. Four months later she exudes confidence and pride, describing herself as a “capable mother,” eager to share her knowledge with other young mothers in her community. Her daughter has gained over 8 pounds, reaching a healthy weight for her age.

Shaka Tangara, now 5 years old, healthy boy in Mali, lost his mom before he even met her — during childbirth. His village assumed he would die as well, but one woman, Salimata, would not accept that. CARE, through the Pathways program, had recently planted moringa trees as part of a conservation agriculture project. Salimata had heard a lot about the nutrition that moringa leaves offer, so she made porridge with the leaves along with what she had learned about nutrition and complementary feeding to feed Shaka. He lived, and the community realized the nutrition education they were receiving was worth the effort. Now, there is not a single person in the village who has not benefited from the project.

Implementing Agenda 2030 is very much a work in progress, goal-by-goal. But a lot of work needs to be done before the SDGs can truly transform the world. There is a need for more clarity on who is responsible for what.

We need to harness the power of the many players now in the development sphere — including multistakeholder partnerships, research institutes, civil society and communities engagement and the private sector — but, we can’t let this dilute the responsibility from governments at all levels to make the needed change happen.

We need systems that hold each actor accountable and, in addition to getting the needed “data,” contribute to changing the lives of the poorest people if we really want to see these changes take place by 2030.

We all know the global development landscape is changing. There are new actors in the space, which allows for different perspectives on the best path to addressing extreme poverty and hunger and for technology and innovation that offer fresh approaches.

I believe transformational change is necessary and possible given what’s happened with technology over the last decade or two — and the only way to achieve that is through partnerships.

There are terrific examples of breakthrough thinking that happen as a result of “unlikely allies” working together both across and within sectors to take advantage of expertise and assets that can leapfrog results and impact created with traditional approaches. Here are five essential pieces of advice for every partnership to help navigate challenges:

1. Ensure we share common values.
2. Know where our expertise and assets can be leveraged.
3. Establish trust and open dialogue between our organizations.
4. Be ready to be challenged and find a middle ground.
5. Stay the course and be persistent to achieve your end goal.

Keeping these principles in mind has helped us navigate challenges along the way toward our shared goal of creating maximum impact for the children and communities we serve. Together we are greater than the sum of our parts.

Power of 5 is a global campaign in partnership with Amway, focused on raising awareness of the issue of childhood malnutrition, and the critical role nutrition plays in early childhood development. Learn more about the work of our partner and its micronutrient powder Nutrilite Little Bits here and join the conversation online using #powerof5.

The views in this opinion piece do not necessarily reflect Devex's editorial views.

About the author

  • Laté Lawson-Lartego

    Laté Lawson-Lartego is the senior director for food and nutrition security at CARE USA where he oversees a growing portfolio of programs addressing the injustice of food and nutrition insecurity with the end goal of enabling 50 million people to be food and nutrition secured and resilient by 2020. He has spent over 20 years in the private and nonprofit sector, with his majority of his tenure in the development sector leading program design and implementation in the area of food and nutrition security, climate change, gender equality, economic development including value chain development, private sector engagement, inclusive financial services and social enterprise development.