October 29, 2014

Doing the Right Things

In the latest issue of The Rotarian magazine, Senior Fellow Roger Thurow reports on the basic steps to giving babies a healthy start in life.

Minutes after giving birth in the Shivgarh district community hospital in India, new mothers walk down a dark hallway to the maternity ward, a small room crowded with four narrow metal-frame beds. Stained sheets cover the thin plastic mattresses. In this grim setting, a colorful poster taped to the wall features a beaming mom snuggling her baby, along with the message, “In the first hour, a mother can change the fate of her child.”

Simple drawings illustrate basic steps that will give the babies a healthy start in life. Sushma, one of the new mothers, recognizes these practices from the women in her village, Rampur Khas. Whenever they meet, on the verandas of their homes or in the fields where they work, the women remind one another of what they can do differently so fewer of their children will die.

Sushma prepared for delivery by buying a new razor blade to cut the umbilical cord, preventing infection, and cotton clothes to keep her baby warm, lowering the risk of hypothermia. Minutes after giving birth, she held her son and began breastfeeding with her antibody-rich colostrum, or first milk. “I know I am doing all I can,” she tells me at her home. “I know what I do can make a difference.”

For decades, efforts to improve the lives of children started with getting them into primary school. But the frontline emphasis is shifting to the 1,000 days from the beginning of a woman’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday. This is the most critical period in determining lifelong health, when vital micronutrients fuel cognitive and physical development. Stunting that begins in these first 1,000 days can have an irreversible, long-term impact on the ability to learn and work. UNICEF estimates that 25 percent of children under five years old are stunted, or significantly below the median height for their age.

Read the full story on The Rotarian >


The Global Food and Agriculture Program aims to inform the development of US policy on global agricultural development and food security by raising awareness and providing resources, information, and policy analysis to the US Administration, Congress, and interested experts and organizations.

The Global Food and Agriculture Program is housed within the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, an independent, nonpartisan organization that provides insight – and influences the public discourse – on critical global issues. The Council on Global Affairs convenes leading global voices and conducts independent research to bring clarity and offer solutions to challenges and opportunities across the globe. The Council is committed to engaging the public and raising global awareness of issues that transcend borders and transform how people, business, and governments engage the world.

Support for the Global Food and Agriculture Program is generously provided by the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.


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