Written by Nabeeha M. Kazi, Managing Director of Humanitas Global
Today, champions for ending hunger and malnutrition gathered in Washington, DC to advocate for sustained political commitments to tackle hunger and malnutrition.
Convened by Bread for the World and Concern Worldwide U.S., the international meeting is meant to garner broad support for the commitments made at the Nutrition for Growth pledge conference hosted in London on June 8.
"This is a moment to renew the call first made by the U.S. and Ireland 1,000 days ago," said Joseph Cahalan, CEO of Concern Worldwide, US. "The challenge now is the 1,000 days ahead of us. We have the knowledge, resources, and political and grassroots momentum to make an even greater impact, but to do so the international community must continue to prioritize and work together in the fight against child hunger."
USAID Administrator, Rajiv Shah emphasized that the knowledge, experience and data we currently have can and should be deployed to end hunger in our lifetime. He also recognized the impact that individuals from across sectors have had in putting food and nutrition security on the development agenda.
Administrator Shah reaffirmed the U.S. Government’s financial commitment to addressing maternal and child malnutrition and committed to building a partnership with U.S. NGOs to leverage private resources in this fight.
Sustained advocacy for and investment in maternal and child nutrition efforts - particularly during the first 1,000 days from conception to age two of a child - are urgent and among the most cost-effective development responses that exist.
Acting Vice President and Network Head of Human Development at the World Bank, Keith Hansen, noted that we often talk about the urgency of nutrition-centered and nutrition-sensitive approaches in terms of what is lost. But, he noted, looking at gains and benefits of investing and scaling nutrition is perhaps even more powerful. It is precisely what nutrition yields that has led to the World Bank's commitment of tripling its investment in nutrition over the next three years.
“A child who grows the extra three or four centimeters is never going to lose those three or four centimeters. Nutrition interventions yield the single highest returns on individual investment of any other intervention at the time of pregnancy and childhood," said Hansen.
Leaders including Martin Bloem, Senior Nutrition Adviser for the World Food Programme, Robert Black, Johns Hopkins University and author of The Lancet Series on Maternal and Child Nutrition and Rajul Pandya-Lorch, Head 2020 Vision Initiative and Chief of Staff at IFPRI, all emphasized breaking down siloes and building better collaboration across sectors for even deeper engagement and investments to build sustainable platforms to scale nutrition.
"The entire value chain is incredibly important and our organizations and companies need to be nutrition sensitive throughout," said Bloem. "We all need to be in it, and we will not win the battle if nutrition remains limited to a technical issue or assigned to a couple of specialists."
David Nabarro, Coordinator of the SUN movement, noted in his video address to the attendees, that we are at a critical time and we cannot underestimate the power of advocacy that has transformed the attention on nutrition, funding for nutrition and commitment to ending hunger and malnutrition in more than 40 SUN countries and beyond.
"Advocacy is very precious and we must use each drop of advocacy so that it has the maximum impact," said Nabarro.
Country leaders also shared their progress and commitments. Zambia has commited to cut malnutrition by 50%. Guatemala has activated its private sector to implement nutrition and health education programs and fortify staple foods. Bangladesh has launched aggressive national programs to promote exclusive breastfeeding in hospital and community settings.
Visible momentum, political will and increased financing all define the gains we have made in our efforts to fight hunger and malnutrition in the past few years. But there is much more to do and the time is now to further:
- Define a sustainble long-term path toward financing of nutrition interventions. By not doing so puts us at risk of losing the momentum and achievements gained to date.
- Build pathways for regional and domestic production of nutritious foods and fortified foods to cut costs and increase country ownership.
- Look beyond the specific nutrition intervention or agricultural output, and address how to build infrastructure, create market access for farmers/producers, engage diverse actors so they add value where its most appropriate, build research capacity within domestic and regional contexts, and invest in women as they are the "owners" of nutrition.
- Create new and creative mechanisms to build ownership of and sensitivity toward nutrition throughout institutions, government administrations and organizations.
- Account for context-specific challenges that countries can learn from and collectively respond to as we build effective scale-up responses.
So much has been put into motion that can make the life of a baby evolve into one that results in a lifetime of greater health, intellectual capacity, productivity and financial well being. We have unprecedented tools, knowledge, partners and platforms to sustain this momentum. If we remain nimble, vocal, open and collaborative we can achieve even greater gains in the next 1,000 days of action.