Remarks by Ertharin Cousin at the Nutrition for Growth High Level Event, London

Delivered on: 08 June 2013


Good morning,  

Today, we are here, on the brink of a new opportunity.

Together we, as a global community, have come to understand the importance of nutrition in the first 1000 days of life.  But if we are honest, we must admit that we have not paid enough attention to nourishing the mothers who are carrying these babies.

It is obvious:  Well-nourished women give birth to healthier babies.  Furthermore, we all recognize the value of exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months.  However, supporting exclusive breastfeeding requires providing mothers access to sufficient nutritious foods.

To this end, WFP today announces an expanding partnership with the United Nations Population Fund, UNFPA.  But rather than create a new initiative, we are joining together with the “Every Woman, Every Child”, Health 4+, and Adolescent Girls Initiatives, we are now united in a common purpose, working to strengthen women’s reproductive health and improve birth outcomes.

Working with UNFPA, WFP’s contribution to these existing programs will begin with the provision of access to nutritious food for adolescent girls and women in four pilot countries: Burkina Faso, Niger, Sierra Leone and Zambia.

Our goal is to expand WFP’s support to all 50+ UNFPA program countries. Where they are providing reproductive support, WFP will offer access to nutritious foods.

As the Lancet Study noted, early interventions for pregnant women provide a better outcome for their children, but the study also reinforces the need to ensure women are well nourished going into pregnancy, which is why our program will also provide outreach to adolescent girls.

WFP will also support South-South cooperation in support of capacity development of governments related to nutrition programs.

Brazil and other countries have made great progress against hunger and undernutrition in recent decades.  There are many valuable lessons learned, but we need systems to facilitate the dissemination of that knowledge.

The WFP Centre of Excellence against Hunger located in Brasilia encourages sharing of Brazil’s lessons learned on school feeding programs and hunger reduction.  Now, through the efforts of FAO, UNICEF and WFP, the Government of Brazil, and with support from the UK, this center will expand and serve as a launch pad for a multi-stakeholder, multi-sector Nutrition Learning Hub, providing an opportunity for South-South learning.

In addition to these efforts, WFP recognizes that the private sector must play a significant role if we are to achieve the desired outcomes. WFP has long maintained partnerships with the private sector as part of our nutrition outreach efforts, including DSM and Unilever.

Today, on behalf of the co-chairs of the SUN Business Network, WFP and GAIN, I am pleased to announce the launch of the Business Innovation Programme to strengthen the SUN Business Network.

This initiative will provide technical support to governments, by helping them engage their local private sectors in SUN national programmes.

The Business and Innovation Programme will also offer professional food and nutrition advice to companies who wish to commit to the Nutrition for Growth Compact by putting good nutrition into their core business principles. 

While the SUN Business Network recognizes the importance of large multinational companies, we also know sustainable, durable impact requires participation from medium size and even small local businesses. This new program will work to identify and include these entities.

At WFP, we commit with governments, UN agencies, businesses, scientific and civil society partners to work together in addressing the challenge of tackling undernutrition. [1]

It takes all of us.

[1] Italicized text quoted from first line of the Global Nutrition for Growth Compact to be released on 8 June.