G-8 leaders urged to end child malnutrition in order to stimulate long-term economic
development and greater progress against hunger and poverty
WASHINGTON, D.C. – In advance of the G-8 Summit at Camp David this weekend, U.S and world leaders met on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. today to assess efforts to combat child malnutrition—a condition which results in three million preventable child deaths annually and drains billions of dollars in lost productivity and health care costs from poor countries. Participants at the “Scaling Up Nutrition: Calling All Champions” briefing called upon G-8 leaders to prioritize action on child malnutrition as part of their development and food security discussions at the G-8 Summit.
The briefing included President Jakaya Kikwete of the United Republic of Tanzania, high-level officials from the White House, Government of Canada, U.S. Congress, U.S. Department of State, U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), Millennium Challenge Corporation, World Bank and the World Food Program.
Nearly 200 million children worldwide are chronically malnourished, resulting in huge losses not only in human potential but also economic productivity in some of the world’s poorest countries. “G-8 leaders have the opportunity to change the lives of millions of children by making a bold commitment to tackle malnutrition. Wiping out chronic malnutrition is the best first step toward helping developing countries’ economies,” said Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children. “We know that malnutrition can lead to anywhere between a two to three percent loss in GDP” [gross domestic product].
President Obama, along with G-8 and African leaders, is expected to announce on Friday new efforts to advance global agricultural development aimed at addressing hunger and poverty in Africa.
Several speakers noted today, however, that action and investment targeted specifically at improving nutrition for women and children during the critical 1,000 day window between pregnancy and age two would promote even greater long-term progress on hunger and poverty alleviation.
“Good nutrition during the critical 1,000 day window from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday is crucial to developing a child’s cognitive capacity and physical growth. Ensuring a child receives adequate nutrition during this window can yield dividends for a lifetime, as a well-nourished child will perform better in school, more effectively fight off disease and even earn more as an adult,” said Dr. Rajiv Shah, Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID).
“People are beginning to realize that agriculture is not just about growing more food. It is about growing more nutritiousfoods and making sure they are available and accessible to all, particularly women and children during the first 1,000 days. This is a welcome, and long overdue, change – and one that we must all act on as quickly as possible,” said Kathy Spahn, President and CEO of Helen Keller International.
Several speakers noted that earlier this week an expert panel of Nobel laureate economists known as the Copenhagen Consensus found that fighting malnutrition in young children is the number one investment that policymakers can make in order to improve global health and development. The research indicated that for every $1 invested in nutrition, as much as $138 in better health and increased productivity is generated.
“This research is especially timely in our budget-constrained environment. It is essential that the global community rally to mobilize not only more money for nutrition, but also more nutrition for the money already spent on hunger and poverty alleviation,” said Adam Taylor, Vice President, Advocacy at World Vision.
Many at the event called on the G-8 to commit to a concrete goal to reduce chronic malnutrition and that investments in food security, agriculture and health are specifically targeted to improve nutrition for women and children.
“Nutrition must be integrated into all of our food security efforts — from emergency food assistance and school meals programs, to the food grown by local farmers,” said Richard Leach, President and CEO of World Food Program USA. “This is an unprecedented moment in the fight against hunger where there is commitment among all sectors — public and private — to address the nutritional needs of vulnerable populations.”
“We know that investments in nutrition –particularly within the 1,000 day window between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday – are the most cost-effective development interventions available, bar none. The key is to generate the political will and commitment to make those investments both now and into the future,” said Ambassador Tony Hall, Executive Director of The Alliance to End Hunger.
The briefing also highlighted commitments from the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, an effort led by 27 developing countries to accelerate progress against malnutrition, in coordination with G-8 governments, donors and UN agencies.
“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 Rev. 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.”
Event conveners included 1,000 Days, The Alliance to End Hunger, Bread for the World, CARE, ChildFund International, Concern Worldwide, Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, Helen Keller International, Save the Children, World Food Program USA and World Vision.