Food and Nutrition Security

A family meal time dominated by riceA family meal time dominated by rice. Photo: ©UNICEF Myanmar/2014/Kyaw Kyaw Winn

Many people in Myanmar suffer from different forms of malnutrition. Nationally, 1 out of every 3 children under 5 years old suffers from chronic undernutrition (stunting). Due to protracted conflicts or disasters/shocks, acute malnutrition in some places exceeds the global emergency threshold of 10%. Micronutrient deficiencies (lack of essential vitamins and minerals required for healthy growth) are widespread. A recent study showed vitamin B1 as an important cause of infant mortality. Undernutrition passes between the generations: low birth weight babies born to mothers who were undernourished before they became pregnant are much more likely to be stunted as children, making good nutrition an important matter for adolescent girls too.

Undernutrition in Myanmar is caused by many factors: inadequate health; incorrect child care and feeding; poor sanitation and hygiene behaviours; lack of a diversified diet; limited access to basic social services; food insecurity and inadequate livelihoods; limited women's empowerment. So in order to effectively reduce undernutrition, a multisectoral approach is required. There is also a need to address the growing trend of overweight and obesity.

The Global Nutrition Report (IFPRI 2015) states that high levels of stunting can reduce a country’s GNP by 7–11%. Scientific evidence shows that good nutrition in the first '1000' days of life - from conception to a child's second birthday - leads to mental acuity and higher earnings, which in turn support macroeconomic and societal growth. Improving nutrition will be an important pathway to achieving progress on many of the Sustainable Development Goals in Myanmar.

UN response in Myanmar

  • In early 2016, a UN Network for Nutrition and Food Security was established in Myanmar to strengthen UN system coherence. It currently consists of FAO, UNDP, UNICEF, UNFPA, UNOPS, UN Women, WHO and WFP. The Network is supported by Renewed Efforts Against Child Hunger and Undernutrition (REACH), with an international facilitator and national consultants who work with the Heads of Agencies and their technical leads to help catalyze multisectoral analysis, multistakeholder collaboration, advocacy and capacity development, under Canadian funding.
  • During the last half of 2015, the UN Network worked closely with the former Government to draft a new prioritized multisectoral National Action Plan for Food and Nutrition Security (2016-2025) as the country’s response to the UN Secretary General’s Zero Hunger Challenge. The Network also supports government review and update relevant sectoral plans.
  • Since August 2015, the UN Network has been supporting the current government undertake a National Nutrition Stocktaking, consisting of a nutrition situation analysis, a policy/plan/legal framework review and a stakeholder and coverage mapping (SUN Planning and Monitoring Tool). This is a government-led initiative and uses data tools and visual templates developed globally by the UN partners in REACH.
  • The UN Network is part of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) country movement. By supporting the Government Network, and collaborating with Donor and Civil Society Networks, to operate as a SUN Multistakeholder Platform, the UN Network contributes to identifying priorities, mobilizing investments and defining responsibilities for scaling up proven interventions and achieving national goals for nutrition and food security.
  • UNOPS manages two of the largest development funds in Myanmar: the Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund (LIFT) and Three Millennium Development Goal Fund (3MDG). Both involve initiatives on nutrition and food security and include nutrition outcome indicators.
  • UN agencies in Myanmar participate in the humanitarian coordination framework, including Food Security and Livelihood, Health, Nutrition and WASH Clusters, which coordinate humanitarian and development partners to ensure adequate responses to protracted and acute/sudden onset emergencies affecting the most vulnerable populations.