Developing strategies to end hunger

Scaling Up Nutrition: Calling All Champions

3-largeThere's never been any doubt that child malnutrition is a tragedy for children and their families. About 3 million children younger than 5 die every year as a direct result of malnutrition, and 200 million others live with nutritional deficiencies that threaten their health and future.

What the global community has not recognized as clearly until recently is that malnutrition is a cause of poverty, not just a result of poverty. It drains billions of dollars in lost productivity and healthcare costs from developing countries.

Today, Bread for the World and our partners in the 1,000 Days Action network are "calling all champions" to lead efforts to end child malnutrition.

We thank this morning's presenters for articulating this message. They are a group of high-level officials who include Senator Dick Durbin, U.S. Senate, Assistant Majority Leader and Senate Hunger Caucus Co-Chair; Congressman Jim McGovern, U.S. House of Representatives, Hunger Caucus Co-Chair; Gayle Smith, Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director at the U.S. National Security Council; The Honorable Rajiv Shah, Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Lead Group Member; The Honorable Ertharin Cousin, Executive Director, World Food Program, and SUN Lead Group Member; Ambassador Tony P. Hall, Executive Director, The Alliance to End Hunger; and others who are leaders in this field.

Just this week, the Copenhagen Consensus -- a panel of Nobel Prize laureates in economics -- reported that according to its latest research, fighting malnutrition in young children is the number one investment that policymakers can make in order to improve global health and development. In fact, every $1 invested in nutrition generates as much as $138 in better health and increased productivity.

As The Economist noted, “Nothing else in development policy has such high returns on investment.” Moreover, it will be much harder to make sustained progress against poverty without urgent action on nutrition.

This weekend, the G-8 group of industrialized countries will hold its annual summit at Camp David in Maryland. We ask leaders of the G-8 to prioritize action on child malnutrition and to set a specific, time-bound goal of reducing stunting, an indication of long-term malnutrition that affects more than 40 percent of children in some developing countries.

One important way for the G-8 to help is by supporting the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement. So far, SUN includes 27 developing countries who share a commitment to making more widely available a range of strategies proven effective in reducing malnutrition among pregnant women and children younger than 2. The G-8 can also ensure that its food security, agriculture, and health investments are specifically targeted and resourced to improve nutrition in women and children.

Bread for the World and our partners thank the members of our Congressional Host Committee. More than 60 members of Congress -- senators and representatives, Republicans and Democrats – are serving as honorary congressional hosts for today’s event. They are experienced or new champions of maternal/child nutrition – a subject of critical importance to children, families, and nations throughout the world.

“The United States has long played a vital role in mustering political will and resources to bolster global prosperity,” said Bread for the World President David Beckmann. “U.S. leadership can support the efforts of developing countries to focus on achieving greater self-reliance, productivity, and food security, and a reduction in chronic hunger and malnutrition – especially during the critical 1,000 days between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday.”

The conveners of today’s briefing include 1,000 Days, The Alliance to End Hunger, Bread for the World, CARE, ChildFund International, Concern Worldwide, GAIN, Helen Keller International, Save the Children, World Food Program USA, and World Vision.

  Michele Learner is associate editor for Bread for the World Institute.

Photo: A Somali woman and child arrive in Kenya in July 2011, seeking food and water after fleeing their drought-stricken community. Photo by Kate Holt.



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