Essex health expert at the centre of Global Nutrition Report

  • Date

    Thu 12 Jan 23

A selection of colourful vegetables laid out

Professor Mariachiara Di Cesare, Director of the Institute of Public Health and Wellbeing, has played a critical role in a new report which aims to improve healthy and sustainable nutrition across the globe.

Professor Di Cesare is a core member of the Global Nutrition Report Independent Expert Group and has played a strategic role in the publication of the 2022 Global Nutrition Report: Stronger Commitments for Greater Action, which sets out the role of accountability and its ability to transform action to tackle the nutrition crisis.

The report, and the Nutrition Accountability Framework at its core, is the first and only independent accountability mechanism to analyse commitments made by governments, both in a domestic and donor role, businesses, civil society and international organisations to tackle the global nutrition crisis.

It was endorsed by global stakeholders as part of a package of measures agreed at the Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit, at the end of the 2021 Nutrition Year of Action, at which an unprecedented level of commitments were made to improve global nutrition. It provides a better understanding of the type, focus and vision of commitments made and whether, and how those commitments translate into action.

Professor Di Cesare explained: “The world was facing a global nutrition crisis before COVID-19 but since the pandemic it has become far worse with worrying trends across every form of malnutrition, from hunger to obesity. People affected by undernutrition has jumped from 618 million in 2019 to 768 million in 2021; almost a third of the world’s population are moderately or severely food insecure; and those unable to afford a healthy diet rose by 112 million to 3.1 billion in 2020 alone.

“Needless to say, the war in Ukraine has shown us, once again, the vulnerability of our food system.”

Professor Mariachiara Di Cesare
"We really need to scale up what we are doing in terms of closing the financing gap required to end malnutrition."
Professor Mariachiara Di Cesare Institute of public health and wellbeing

The report shows that despite an unprecedented number of commitments made, including over US$ 42.6 billion in financial investments, more needs to be done.

“We really need to scale up what we are doing in terms of closing the financing gap required to end malnutrition,” Professor Di Cesare said.

“We need to think how commitments from different stakeholders can be sustainable, how we can be more inclusive in the type of commitment we are making, and also how we can diversify in the type of funding that we are committing for fighting poor diet and malnutrition,” she added.

As well as sitting on the independent expert group responsible for the report, Professor Di Cesare was lead author on two of its chapters.

Her chapter on Governments: Tackling poor diets and malnutrition domestically shows that governments have boosted efforts to tackle poor diets and malnutrition in all its forms, and that the main focus is on tackling maternal, infant and young child nutrition outcomes such as stunting, wasting, anaemia and exclusive breastfeeding. It also shows that less effort is put into tackling obesity and diet-related non-communicable diseases.

“Governments have a fundamental responsibility and authority to safeguard their populations’ nutrition, resilience and wellbeing through wide-ranging actions. Low- and lower-middle-income countries are contributing dramatically to tackling poor diets and malnutrition in all its forms and are showing a high degree of collective responsibly,” Professor Di Cesare explained.

Her second chapter on International organisations, including multilaterals shows how international organisations play an essential role in the fight against poor diet and malnutrition and makes recommendations on how their impact could be enhanced.

In particular, the chapter highlights how international organisations are vital in setting agendas, promoting coordinated nutrition action across the globe and championing action where it is needed most.

Gerda Verburg, former Coordinator of the Scaling Up Nutrition Movement said: “Professor Di Cesare rightly highlights the governments’ responsibility and country's ownership of their nutrition commitments. She demonstrates the inspirational response from countries in committing to safeguard nutrition gains made over the past decade, in the face of extraordinary challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic and the food and nutrition crises due to the war in Ukraine, multiple climate shocks, and escalating costs.

“While outlining country ownership and how countries are holding themselves accountable through the first ever Nutrition Accountability Framework, she also highlights the key role international organisations and stakeholders can play and how much more can be achieved when they are aligned behind the country-owned and country-centred national priorities."

Find out more about the key findings.