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G-8 Leaders Commit to Reducing Poverty and Malnutrition

The worldwide momentum toward providing more of the nutrition essential for young children -- especially those in the critical 1,000 Days "window of opportunity" between pregnancy and age 2 -- reached a milestone when global leaders met at the G-8 meetings this week in Lough Erne, Northern Ireland. A communique released at the end of the event mentions nutrition commitments in the contexts of strengthening global food and nutrition security, reducing poverty and malnutrition, and achieving positive nutrition outcomes. I wrote about country commitments to fighting malnutrition last month. But the G-8 is a political meeting at the highest level, usually focused on large structural issues like global security and economics.

How is it that the world’s leaders are now talking about nutrition, the basis of human life?

Now is a good time to review the global advocacy on nutrition that has helped bring that momentum to Lough Erne. And it is time to reflect on how efforts to engage Congress and the White House in maternal and child nutrition funding and policy reform have been cumulative and have led to historic change.

Two years ago, Bread for the World and Concern Worldwide held an event to engage civil society in the 1,000 Day Call to Action and to build political will at the global and country level to improve nutrition among mothers and children through the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement. Country-level SUN alliances were formed, with civil society beginning to work collaboratively with their governments and other organizations on nutrition policies. In the United States, the Women of Faith for the 1,000 Days Movement was born, with the mission of elevating nutrition as a priority for U.S. churches and to join with a growing coalition urging the U.S. government to improve nutrition funding, policies, and programs.

Jump forward two short years. On June 8, 2013, an event called Nutrition for Growth: Beating Hunger Through Business and Science took place in London, during which governments pledged $21.9 billion to tackle malnutrition between now and the year 2020. At the nutrition summit, the United States announced that it would spend $10 billion on nutrition specific and sensitive programs between FY 2012 and 2014—and it pledged to maintain this level of funding in the future.

Two days after the London pledging event, Bread and Concern joined with many partners for Sustaining Political Commitments to Scaling Up Nutrition, a civil society-led event in Washington, D.C., that brought together more than 500 people, including Bread for the World’s National Gathering participants, nutrition stakeholders, and SUN country representatives to take stock of progress over the first 1,000 days and to look ahead to the next 1,000. USAID Administrator Dr. Rajiv Shah reaffirmed the U.S. government’s financial commitment to maternal and child malnutrition during his keynote address and committed to building a partnership with U.S. nongovernmental organizations to leverage private resources in this fight.

We were able to showcase government, parliament, and civil society representatives from Zambia, a SUN country making solid commitments to fighting malnutrition. They, and many other speakers from across the SUN Movement, spoke of successes and challenges in elevating nutrition as a priority in their countries.

Alongside this event the SUN Civil Society Network officially launched. That meeting charted a course for local civil society organizations to deepen collaboration with their governments and other stakeholders to reduce maternal and child malnutrition in their countries.

The next day, June 11, 2013, a nutrition briefing on Capitol Hill engaged congressional staff on global nutrition efforts and political momentum. A bipartisan resolution (House Resolution 254) cosponsored by Reps. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D-Fla.) and Mario Diaz-Balart (R-Fla.) was introduced to draw attention to the scourge of malnutrition, which now harms more than 800 million people.

I would say this has been a pretty remarkable couple of weeks for global nutrition. However, nutrition advocates and civil society organizations won’t be resting any time soon. They’re already hard at work, seeing that those political commitments are sustained and turn into results in the nex 1,000 days. Scott Bleggi

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