By Mr. Basanta Kumar Kar Transform Nutrition Champion, South Asia
- We need more political will and government departments focused on nutrition.
- Our governments should act and make a pledge at Nutrition for Growth (N4G) Summit at Rio in August’16.
- We the ambassadors have to act today to influence the thinking and actions of policy makers and political leaders.
These were the main messages from a Nutrition for Growth (N4G) spokespeople training in London that I attended as a Transform Nutrition Champion from South Asia in March this year. The timing was perfect. With sunny spells and spring on it’s way London was a lovely place to be. Visiting the statue of Mahatma Gandhi at London’s Parliament square was a highlight for me. Five global Transform Nutrition Champions and key personnel from Save the Children country offices gathered to learn the art of positioning nutrition in the public domain in a smarter way. The trainers with their practical experiences, evidence, tools, techniques and methodology came prepared to make nutrition stimulating; a top investment priority that can transform the present and future generation. Nostalgia haunts. In retrospect, I was recalling a people’s campaign I led in a tribal Indian state that facilitated the election of ten thousand marginalised women and girls to the local government bodies to set agendas and transform nutrition. The campaign titled ‘Change Agent to Change leader’ was a game changer in nutrition history. The rigour, tone and tenor of the trainers made me realise that nutrition is an agenda of peace, security, stability and development to help build a new world order. The trainers ignited our inner potential as change leaders, decision makers, opinion leaders and catalysts for change for a new world order. It was mutual and participatory indeed. The participants shared lessons and evidence from their own country experiences. The discourse on political economy, politics of malnutrition, ‘out of the box’ ideas, linking nutrition to national pride and cultural nationalism triggered our thoughts to design a communication strategy to effect this change. Breaking the South Asian enigma, India is home to one-third of world’s malnourished children and 38% of stunting among children under 5 years of age- a ‘national shame’ in India…. Nutrition financing discourse was thought provoking. Selling nutrition is like selling ice in Iceland. The politicians are ‘price sensitive’. How to reduce stunting by 40% by 2025 which requires an investment of 49 billion? Who will fund and how to mobilise global financial and political commitment when politicians are price sensitive? All these deliberations reminded of my recent consultations on nutrition financing and pre-budget advocacy in India. It was interesting to hear that the UK is introducing in the a sugar levy on soft drinks that will be used to fund sport in primary schools and hopefully reduce obesity among children. This could provide a real example of nutrition action for others to emulate. Malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency should already be a top investment priority. By now, our leaders should have realised that good nutrition can empower the present and future generation. Today, the fraction ridden, fragmented, overlapping and much debated sector struggles to find its own niche, allies and patrons to maximise the opportunity to secure political and financial commitments. The training sessions in London provided numerous tips for messages and opportunities for stakeholder alignment so we can fight malnutrition together. Landing in New Delhi to witness the slow onset of summer the ideas includiing ‘’activists make things possible, politicians make things happen’’ still follow me around. Nutrition has to be people’s agenda to become a political agenda. With national pride linked, you need to demonstrate islands of excellence; models and country specific evidences to transform the thinking and actions. In this journey, I feel, you need numerous ambassadors; Champions of Change to break this South Asian enigma; a silent emergency where for many of the excluded, malnutrition is invisible and a way of life. email@example.com