Childhood wasting is one of the most ignored nutrition challenges globally – both in terms of financing and political urgency – and COVID-19 has exacerbated it even further. An additional 13.6 million children under 5 are projected to be affected by wasting by next year – a 30% increase in just over three years. It is time to re-think how we tackle this massive health problem and scale up responses to prevent severe wasting.
A new partnership to maximise the reach and efficacy of wasting treatment
Within this context and the momentum achieved by the Nutrition for Growth (N4G) Year of Action, The Power of Nutrition and Irish Aid – both anchor members of the N4G ‘Wasting Reset’ stakeholder group– are partnering to tackle Severe Wasting or Severe Acute Malnutrition through an innovative Product Access Initiative (PAI) that plugs the gap between treatment supply and demand.
Whilst the nutrition sector has seen renewed efforts to improve the supply and delivery of nutrition products, evidence shows that we are lacking investment in solutions that make sure products are used and consumed by the children most urgently in need of treatment. This new initiative will therefore address the neglected ‘demand side’ of wasting treatment (as shown below) by ensuring that Ready To Use Therapeutic Food (RUTF) – a home-based treatment for severely malnourished children – will be more effectively and efficiently used to successfully treat more children.
This initiative can be expanded to further nutritional products and services where access and uptake has shown to be weak.
Benefitting from Irish Aid’s financial and technical support, the Product Access Initiative will initially focus on Liberia and will be implemented in close partnership with the Government of Liberia and the University of Liberia. Together, we plan to roll out the initiative in Q1 2022.
A springboard initiative for demand-focused approaches
The Product Access Initiative in Liberia will provide a springboard and new evidence that will allow us to extend this model to other geographical areas, as well as other services and products with weak access and uptake.
Irish Aid and The Power of Nutrition’s partnership is a strong reminder that tackling malnutrition requires a joint approach, as it leans on the synergies and complementary expertise of both agencies. With the N4G Tokyo Summit happening this week and the Nutrition Year of Action soon coming to a close, we hope this model contributes to continued momentum in the fight against malnutrition in 2022.
Product Access Initiative Action Areas:
Image: ⓒUNICEF Liberia/2021/M.Omar