Leading businesses pledge support to tackle Sri Lanka’s high malnutrition

Saturday, 14 December 2019 00:02 -     - {{hitsCtrl.values.hits}}



  • Private sector is joining SUN and WFP in battling under-nutrition, obesity and some of the country’s toughest nutrition issues


The Scaling Up Nutrition Business Network (SUN BN), led by the United Nations World Food Program (WFP), has brought together 30 leading Sri Lankan businesses to pledge their support for three important agendas: improving workplace health and nutrition efforts, producing healthy food, and promoting healthy food consumption.

A global network spanning 41 countries, SUN BN aims to reduce malnutrition in all its forms through engaging and supporting businesses to act, invest and innovate in responsible and sustainable actions and operations to improve nutrition. Recognising the critical role of the private sector in providing solutions to health and nutrition issues, WFP helped establish SUN Business Network in March 2019 to address the gap between rapid national economic growth and stagnant malnutrition rates.  

Sri Lanka became a signatory to the SUN Global Movement in 2009, of which the SUN BN is one action pillar. This November, Sri Lanka was internationally recognised at the SUN Movement – Global Gathering in Kathmandu, Nepal, for bringing together the private sector and taking bold action to improve nutrition at all levels. 

Today’s meeting considered Sri Lanka members’ specific action plans for 2020 as part of a larger strategy going forward, including establishing common goals and results for collaboration between all stakeholders over the next two years.

Hemas Holdings PLC Group Wellness Manager Shanelle De Almeida, the lead of the workplace health and nutrition workgroup said: “The SUN BN is a great initiative to bring together like-minded organisations and people who are passionate about creating a healthy food culture in our community. The network provides a communication bridge for positive change.” 

Expanding on the role of the SUN BN, WFP Representative in Sri Lanka Brenda Barton said: “WFP is happy to facilitate this platform for businesses in Sri Lanka. The network connects the private sector, governments, civil society, the United Nations and academia in a collective effort to improve nutrition in Sri Lanka. Convening, assessing and advocating for nutrition is more important than ever before with the country facing a nutritional ‘double burden’  — under-nutrition rates unchanged for over a decade in addition to soaring rates of overweight and obesity.”   

Sri Lanka’s universal healthcare and free education policies over the last few decades continue to help the country go forward. However, poor nutrition status remains an issue and continues to impact the country’s ability to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals, particularly SDG 2 – Zero Hunger.  

The country has one of the highest rates (top 10 worst in the world) of acute malnutrition – which is “wasting” or thinness – in children under five years of age. These rates have remained largely unchanged over the last decade. Further over-nutrition is rapidly emerging, with 45% of women of reproductive age overweight or obese.

Poor nutrition also is linked to the country’s high incidence of non-communicable diseases (NCDs) such as heart diseases and diabetes – causing more than three-quarters of all deaths. 

The private sector organisations engaged with the Sun Business Network are: AIA Insurance Lanka PLC, Aitken Spence, Brandix, Dentsu Grant, Dialog, Hemas Holdings PLC, HSBC, London Stock Exchange Group, Mas Capital Ltd., MAS Holdings, MasterCard, Richard Pieris (Arpico) Maskeliya Plantation, Standard Chartered Bank, Virtusa Ltd., Adamjee Marketing, Calorie Counter, Cargills Ceylon Ltd., CIC Holdings PLC, CSR Sri Lanka, Dialog, Federation of Chamber of Commerce, Jetwing Hotels, John Keells Holdings PLC, Prima Group, SLFPA, Matale District of Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, Cargills (Ceylon) PLC, CoCo Green Ltd., Dilmah, Hayleys PLC, Saaraketha Holdings, SCAN, Unilever, Shangri –La, Ceylon Biscuits Ltd., South Asia Gateway Terminals Ltd.

The SUN Business Network is supported by donations to WFP from Japanese private sector associations.