What is the GAP?
Photo by: Christine Nesbitt (UNICEF 2010)
In June 2019, the UN Secretary-General commissioned UN agencies working on nutrition (FAO, UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP and WHO) with preparing the first-ever Global Action Plan (GAP) on Child Wasting.
The plan aims to respond to the slow progress towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) on reducing childhood wasting, and to growing calls for a more coordinated and streamlined UN approach to addressing this challenge.
The newly released GAP Framework identifies four critical outcomes needed to achieve the SDG target on child wasting and improve early detection and treatment for those who need it:
Reduced incidence of low birthweight
Improved infant and young child feeding
Improved child health
Improved early detection and treatment of child wasting
Under each outcome, the GAP Framework identifies pathways to accelerate the delivery of essential actions and create an enabling environment for good nutrition to take hold. UNICEF is leading the development of the GAP Country Operational Roadmaps, supporting countries to implement context-specific commitments to reach the global SDG target on child wasting.
WHAT IS CHILD WASTING?
Wasting is a form of acute malnutrition characterized by a loss of body weight in relation to height, which increases a child’s risk of infection and death and decreases his or her ability to learn.
As estimated 50 million children, or 7.3% of the total under-five population around the world suffer from wasting, a life-threatening form of undernutrition. In 2015, as part of the SDGs, governments around the world committed to reducing this number to <5% by 2025 and to <3% by 2030.
Yet, since these targets were adopted, the proportion of wasted children has remained largely unchanged. Wasting affects children in virtually every continent on the planet, with the largest number of children suffering from wasting today being found in South Asia.
For much of the past two decades, global efforts to address wasting have primarily focused on providing treatment for wasted children, especially in humanitarian crises. In 2019, an estimated 11 million children received treatment for wasting. Although the coverage of treatment services has steadily increased since 2010, the proportion of wasted children who can access treatment remains unacceptably low with just one in three severely wasted children receiving treatment.
The GAP Framework recognizes that effective responses to child wasting must be informed by evidence about the specific drivers of wasting and how they manifest to increase vulnerability across different contexts, populations and seasons.
Guided by context-specific evidence, the Framework calls on national governments and their partners to strengthen national systems - including health, food and social protection systems - to deliver healthy diets and nutrition services and care for mothers and children to prevent and treat child wasting.
The goal of the GAP is to accelerate the delivery of essential actions to address the immediate determinants of child wasting, while aligning actions across multiple systems to simultaneously address underlying drivers that continue to limit our collective ability to protect children, families and communities from wasting.
Finally, the development and implementation of the GAP on Child Wasting will be driven by seven common principles:
Promote government leadership and ownership of prevention and treatment of wasting in all contexts and at all levels.
Re-position prevention at the centre of our collective efforts to reduce the number of children suffering from wasting and increase the efficiency of our collective efforts.
Prioritize scalable responses that are cost-effective, efficient and designed to be practical and feasible at scale, increasing access to hard-to-reach populations.
Enhance the life cycle approach to ensure inclusion of adolescents, pregnant and breastfeeding women, infants aged 0-5 months and children aged 6-59 months in prevention, protection and treatment.
Ground the design of wasting interventions in key present and future factors that impact wasting, including urbanization, climate change, demographic shifts and increasing inequalities.
Commit to gender, equality, women’s empowerment, community participation and ownership, inclusion of excluded groups and responsiveness to special needs, including for populations on the move.
Encourage iterative action and learning, acting on what we already know and gradually adapting based on emerging evidence and data to ensure maximum effectiveness.