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Bread Helps Win Important Nutrition Victories

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Dabora Nyibol prepares sorghum for her family at her home in South Sudan. A new nutrition strategy for the U.S. Agency for International Development will help ensure that people like Nyibol in poor countries will receive better nutrition from the assistance they receive from U.S. food-aid programs. (Stephen H. Padre)

May was a good month for nutrition.

At the Chicago Council Global Food Security 2014 event May 22 in Washington, D.C., National Security Advisor Susan Rice delivered on a promise by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to launch the agency's first-ever global nutrition strategy. The release of the strategy came just one year after being announced at an event cohosted by Bread for the World and Concern Worldwide.

Bread has been an active participant in the development of the strategy, along with other institutions that share a concern over nutrition, including advocacy and operational partners of USAID.

Improving maternal and child nutrition has been a major part of Bread's non-legislative advocacy efforts for the past three years. The USAID strategy comes after Bread’s successful efforts to clarify exactly where nutrition programs are funded within the federal budget, to persuade the administration to identify a high-level spokesperson for nutrition in the U.S. government (USAID administrator Raj Shah was named), and to help win needed reforms in U.S. food aid policies and programs. Also, the 2014 farm bill authorized changes that will increase the efficiency of food-aid programs and delivery, allow greater flexibility to purchase food for distribution closer to where it is needed, and provide additional options for using new specialized food products that have been fortified with vitamins and minerals.

"The fact that USAID has developed an agency-wide nutrition strategy is another sign of U.S. leadership in efforts to scale up maternal and child nutrition globally," said Asma Lateef, director of Bread for the World Institute. “It reflects a strong commitment to augment the effectiveness of its programs, especially those in the Feed the Future Initiative, and to hold itself accountable to improving nutrition, particularly in the critical 1,000-day window of opportunity between pregnancy and age 2."

Feed the Future is the U.S. government’s global hunger and food-security initiative that connects federal government agencies and departments that have hunger-related programs and the 19 partner countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean that are in the initiative.

According to the strategy, undernutrition contributed to 3.1 million (45 percent of all) preventable child deaths in 2011. That same year, stunting impacted more than 165 million people worldwide—including 52 million children under five. The USAID nutrition strategy recognizes the essential role that nutrition plays in human development and the devastating personal, social, and economic impacts of chronic malnutrition on an individual, a community, and a country.

The strategy will support commitments the United States made as part of the Global Nutrition for Growth Compact agreed at last year’s Nutrition for Growth Summit, including reaching 500 million pregnant women and children under two by 2020; averting 20 million additional cases of stunting by 2020 (a World Health Assembly milestone); and preventing 1.7 million deaths by 2020 through efforts to reduce stunting, increase breastfeeding, improve zinc supplementation, and boost coverage of treatment of severe acute malnutrition.

"In the year since announcing the strategy, USAID has engaged a broad set of stakeholders, resulting in a stronger finished product and more effective, efficient implementation," added Lateef. "This has also laid the groundwork for the forthcoming 'whole-of-government' plan from the Obama administration. We look forward to continued cross-agency coordination to help improve nutritional outcomes for women and children around the world."

[This article originally appeared in the June edition of Bread for the World's e-newsletter.]

 

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