On 6-7 June, APPG members travelled to Rome to meet with the Rome Based UN Food and Agriculture Agencies (RBAs) and then to Geneva, to meet with the World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Scaling up Nutrition (SUN) secretariat.

The purpose of the trip was two-fold. In Rome, we sought to understand the role of the World Food Programme (WFP), the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) and the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) in helping to tackle malnutrition.

In Geneva, we were joined by the Vaccines for All APPG, to look at the intersections between vaccinations and nutrition and the essential role of both in achieving Universal Health Coverage (UHC).

In Rome, the different agencies explained to us how they intervene in food and agricultural systems to help meet nutrition targets by, for example, ensuring nutritious crops are able to grow and go to market in parts of the world where they are needed and by taking steps to ensure people can afford to buy the food.

Each agency has a slightly different remit. WFP is primarily a humanitarian organisation. FAO is the principle UN agency working on food and agriculture from a development perspective and IFAD is a development bank that invests in rural areas.

The UK Government is represented on each of the different organisations’ governance bodies. Each agency will be essential in the lead up to the Nutrition for Growth (N4G) summit as they have seats on the different N4G working groups and will play an important role in the delivery of pledges made at the summit.

In Geneva, we looked primarily at UHC, the concept that everyone should be able to access the health services they need without having to suffer financial hardship. Malnutrition weakens the effect of medicines and vaccinations and makes people more susceptible to illness. Good nutrition is therefore central to the achievement of UHC as, by investing in nutrition, it is possible to reduce the long term financial burden on health systems as a result of ill health.

Later this year, the UN High Level Meeting on UHC will take place. At the meeting, UN member states will agree to a political declaration to accelerate progress towards UHC. The declaration is currently under consultation and it is a priority of both the vaccines APPG and the N4G APPG to ensure strong recommendations on nutrition and vaccines are included throughout.

In addition, over the course of the following year there will be multiple opportunities to put the political declaration into action. Key health organisations such as Gavi, Global Fund and the Global Polio Eradication Initiative will all be renewing their budgets and, at the end of 2020, the Nutrition for Growth summit will take place.

Each of these moments must be viewed as a brick in the overall structure of UHC as each investment supports the others but similarly, a failure to support one will undermine the efficacy of them all.

Following the trip, the MPs discussed the possibility of securing a Parliamentary debate on UHC, in order to demonstrate Parliament’s will to invest equitably at each upcoming health financing moment and to recommend wording for the political declaration on UHC.