According to the 2018 SADC State of Food and Nutrition Security and Vulnerability Report, 20 million children under age five in the region are stunted. The Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Madagascar, Mozambique and Zambia all have high stunting rates of 40 percent and above.
In Madagascar, the national global acute malnutrition rate stands at eight percent. The prevalence of overweight in Botswana, Seychelles and South Africa is 10 percent and higher, indicating an emerging problem in the region.
The Global, Regional and National commitments on nutrition
In April 2016, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2016–2025 the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition. The Decade aims to catalyze policy commitments that result in measurable action to address all forms of malnutrition.
SADC Member States have also committed to meeting the nutrition targets in the Agenda for Sustainable Development by 2030 – in particular, Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 2 (end hunger, achieve food security and improved nutrition and promote sustainable agriculture) and SDG 3 (ensure healthy lives and promote well-being for all at all ages).
The SADC Protocol on Health and the SADC Health Policy Framework 2000 commit to improving the nutritional status of the population in the region and addressing the SADC’s long-term goals of eliminating poverty.
The SADC’s Food and Nutrition Security Strategy (2015 – 2025) also provides a roadmap for addressing food and nutrition insecurity and poverty especially among the most vulnerable populations.
According to the 2017 Global Nutrition report, for every USD 1 invested in nutrition, there is a USD 16 return. Converting the global, regional and national commitments mentioned above into reductions in malnutrition requires political commitment, better policies, increased investment, evidence-based decision-making and cooperation across sectors from a range of stakeholders
The critical contribution of the RVAA Programme
The RVAA Programme coordinates and supports SADC Members States through National Vulnerability Assessment Committees (NVACs) to undertake annual vulnerability assessments and analysis. Such analysis is a critical input to both emergency response and development programming, and used by both governments and partners.
To gain a deeper understanding of the causes of chronic vulnerability in the region and to inform longer-term programming, the RVAA Programme has integrated nutrition into vulnerability assessments and analysis. NVACs now generate information on nutrition, food consumption, water and sanitation, and child morbidity. The RVAA Programme complements national analysis by facilitating a comparative regional nutrition outlook.
A Technical Working (TWG) on Integrating Nutrition, HIV and Gender, established in 2013, provides guidance on the integration of nutrition into vulnerability assessments and analysis. It aims to:
• Build the capacities of SADC Member States to generate, analyze and use nutrition information to inform decision-making processes;
• Provide a clear understanding of causal factors that are important to monitor and act upon in ensuring food and nutrition security; and
• Support the formulation of evidence-based policies and programmes (short, medium and long term) in response to identified gaps.
The TWG group spearheaded the development of SADC Guidance on Integration of Nutrition, HIV, and Gender in Vulnerability Assessments and Analysis for NVACs in 2015. The document provides reviews of approaches, methodologies, and tools for integrating nutrition into the vulnerability assessments and analysis, adaptable to specific country contexts.
The RVAA Programme advocates for the development and implementation of policies and scaling up efforts to address malnutrition in the region.
In 2018, the Zimbabwe National Nutrition Survey assessed district level nutrition status among children under five years of age.
The Eswatini Vulnerability Assessment Committee has integrated elements of nutrition into their annual rural vulnerability assessment and analysis using variables such as anthropometric measurements.
The Botswana Vulnerability Assessment Committee integrated nutrition indicators into their 2016 Urban Vulnerability Assessment and Analysis (UVAA).