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A Turning Point in the Global Fight to End Child Hunger

1,000 Days meeting

U.S. Under Secretary of State Maria Otero speaks during Monday’s meeting, “1,000 Days to Scale Up Nutrition for Mothers & Children.” To her left are Tom Arnold, David Beckmann, Kevin Farrell, and David Nabarro. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl.


Monday we joined more than 350 high-level government officials, leaders of civil society organizations, and activists from all over the world to galvanize political momentum to scale up nutrition initiatives that will help save the lives of at least 1 million children annually.

During “1,000 Days to Scale Up Nutrition for Mothers & Children: Building Political Commitment,” we discussed the critical importance of proper nutrition, particularly during the 1,000 days from pregnancy to 2 years old. Conclusive evidence points to the devastating impact of malnutrition on infant and child mortality, and its irreversible, long-term effects on health and cognitive and physical development.

Monday’s meeting follows a September 2010 event in which U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and then-Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin launched the “1,000 Days” partnership at the U.N. Millennium Development Goals Summit. The partnership now includes more than 100 decision makers and experts who aim to rally resources and political commitments to end child malnutrition.

Also in 2010, a group of international organizations—as well as government and private sector leaders—endorsed Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN): A Framework for Action, a plan that outlines priorities for ending child malnutrition in more than a dozen countries with the highest levels of hunger and food insecurity. Key activities focus on good nutritional practices, including breast-feeding and proper hygiene; the provision of vitamins, minerals, and micronutrients; and therapeutic feeding for malnourished children.

About 3.5 million children die every year because of undernutrition. Ninety percent of the 195 million children who experience stunted growth because of malnutrition live in just 36 countries—21 of which are in sub-Saharan Africa. In some African countries, the proportion of children whose growth has been stunted is as high as 50 percent.

In 2009, the World Bank identified 13 interventions that could be used during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life—which could save the lives of 1 million children annually. They include simple acts such as breastfeeding, hand-washing, taking vitamins, and providing malnourished children with special therapeutic foods.

We must do all we can to sustain the political commitment to address malnutrition, bolster and reinvigorate champions of this issue, and recruit new supporters. This meeting also will help us develop a shared advocacy agenda and strategy for planned follow-up events at the next U.N. General Assembly in September and G-20 Summit in November, including a focus on financing to mobilize the additional resources needed to scale up nutrition.

The coming years will be crucial for sustaining the commitment, capacities, and coordination for these efforts to succeed. The governments of countries facing the greatest malnutrition must be the main investors in efforts to scale up nutrition. But they can’t make progress without support from the other stakeholders commit­ted to improving nutrition. Now is the time.

Tom Arnold is CEO of Concern Worldwide, and David Beckmann is president of Bread for the World.

 

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