By Rajiv Shah, Administrator, U.S. Agency for International Development
This post originally appeared on USAID's Impact Blog.
A silent crisis is happening right now. It affects 165 million children globally, robbing them of the future they deserve and leading to more child deaths every year than any other disease. In a world of plentiful, nutritious foods and advanced science, this is unacceptable.
We can do better. And we can do it together.
At a landmark event in London this weekend, global government, business, and civil society leaders will join together to commit to a different future — one in which every child benefits from the nutrition needed to grow and thrive.
As the head of USAID – and as a parent of young children – I am privileged to show the United States’ support for global nutrition at the Nutrition for Growth event today. This event’s global reach reflects growing recognition that the challenge of undernutrition is solvable, but requires a new approach.
To proactively address the root causes of hunger and undernutrition and get the most out of every development dollar invested, we cannot treat nutrition, global health, and food security as isolated priorities. We must integrate our approach across sectors, forging high-impact partnerships and driving game-changing innovation from farms to markets to tables.
Feed the Future is doing just that, working with businesses, local communities, farmers’ organizations, and country leaders to not only reduce poverty and hunger but undernutrition too. Last year, we reached 12 million children through nutrition programs that reduced anemia, supported community gardens, and treated malnutrition.
This focus reflects the United States’ long history as the global leader in nutrition, from providing emergency food aid during crises to helping farmers and their families grow and consume more nutritious foods.
In fact, we have nearly doubled nutrition-specific funding through our global health programs and we have tripled agriculture funding since 2008, targeting our investments where we can deliver meaningful impact. We’ve also been a strong supporter of the Global Agriculture and Food Security Program, which funds country priorities in agricultural development and nutrition.
Today, I was pleased to announce that the U.S. Government is providing more than $1 billion for nutrition-specific interventions and nearly $9 billion on nutrition-sensitive activities over fiscal years 2012-2014.
These investments support and accelerate trends in stunting reduction; ultimately to reduce stunting by 20 percent over five years in the areas where we work through Feed the Future, translating into 2 million fewer stunted children.
Today we also signed on to the global Nutrition for Growth Compact, endorsing high-level goals for improving nutrition.
Integrating and expanding nutrition activities into our agricultural development programs makes good sense and is effective, as many of our civil society partners demonstrate every day in the field. And a growing body of research and knowledge, including the recently released The Lancet Series on Maternal and Child Nutrition, provides strong evidence that improving nutrition is one of the best ways to achieve lasting progress in development.
Ensuring that a child receives adequate nutrition, particularly in the critical 1,000-day window from a woman’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday, 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. Nutrition is central to ending preventable child death.
The evidence is also clear that governments can’t do this alone.
Momentum for improving nutrition is strong, in large part thanks to our civil society partners who have worked tirelessly to mobilize support around the world behind the evidence that nutrition matters. Just today a coalition of U.S. NGOs pledged $750 million over five years in private, nongovernment funds for nutrition.
In a world where private sector investment flows vastly outpace official assistance, nations will only achieve development in partnership with a vibrant and transparent private sector as well. That is the mission behind the New Alliance for Food Security and Nutrition.
In just one year, the New Alliance has grown into a $3.75 billion public-private partnership that builds on country investment plans developed by African countries through the Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Program and works to integrate the principles of the Scaling Up Nutrition movement, which recognizes the meaningful impact of nutrition on all aspects of society—from health to agriculture to long-term growth and stability.
During its presidency of the G-8 this year, the United Kingdom has worked hard to carry the New Alliance forward, keeping momentum strong for this groundbreaking partnership.
Ending extreme poverty by advancing nutrition from farms to markets to tables is the vision that brings business, development, and civil society representatives together this weekend.
It’s also what inspires us to work together to ensure that every child has a healthy start and every nation a brighter future.
For updates on the Nutrition for Growth event this weekend and what the United States is doing to improve nutrition, follow the hashtags #Nutrition4Growth and #GHmatters on Twitter.