CWS: New U.S., global nutrition initiatives can 'save tomorrow's generation'

The announcement of the new United Nations Scaling Up Nutrition Roadmap and this morning's launch of the joint U.S.-Ireland "1,000 Days: Change a Life, Change the Future" initiative to reduce child under-nutrition gives hope that the world might save millions of children's lives and the future of tomorrow's generation, said global humanitarian agency Church World Service today.

Cambodian mother and baby A mother in Cambodia holds her healthy baby, who has benefitted from a CWS-UN World Food Program maternal-child health project. Photo: CWS

NEW YORK, N.Y. -- The announcement of the new United Nations Scaling Up Nutrition "SUN" Roadmap and the Tuesday (Sept. 21) launch of the joint U.S.-Ireland “1,000 Days: Change a Life, Change the Future” initiative to reduce child under-nutrition gives hope that the world might save millions of children’s lives and the future of tomorrow’s generation, says global humanitarian agency Church World Service.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Irish Foreign Minister Michaél Martin announced the joint 1,000 Days initiative in New York, as the UN goes into this week’s General Assembly session and deliberation on the status of the Millennium Development Goals.

Sustainable development agency Church World Service applauded both the UN SUN Roadmap and the U.S.-Ireland initiative's focus on maternal health and nutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life as the key strategy to reaching the MDG goal to eradicate hunger and poverty -- an investment CWS refers to as life insurance for tomorrow’s generation.

Without key nutrients from the start of pregnancy until a child reaches the age of 2, a child’s brain and overall physical development can suffer irreversible damage.

Worldwide, chronic malnutrition causes 3.5 million maternal and under-5 child deaths a year -- one child every six seconds -- and 200 million children suffer from chronic under-nutrition. In the U.S. one in five of America's children lived in poverty last year and more than one in five children is at risk of hunger every day.

Today’s launch of the 1,000 Days initiative and the UN’s unveiling of its SUN Roadmap, both on child under-nutrition, followed last week’s reports by the FAO and the U.S. Census Bureau report that one in seven Americans is now living in poverty.

On the reports by the FAO last week, CWS Deputy Director and Head of Programs Maurice A. Bloem said, “We were expecting the poverty rate to go down, so it’s positive that the rate has improved. But if you look at the gaps between the poor and the rich, and at the poverty, hunger and nutritional status of children and mothers, well,” he said, “we’re plainly not there yet.

“Even in a developed, leading country like the United States, as of 2009, 16.7 million of its children, that’s more than 22 percent of all American children, live in food insecure households*,” he said.

But Bloem noted, “If we follow the path laid forward by the new SUN framework and if we all work together to focus on the first 1,000 days of life and the truly simple interventions that support infant and maternal health and nutritional well-being, chronic child malnutrition can become part of human history,” he said, “and not part of our future.”

“Improving nutrition is nothing less than a pre-condition to achieving the MDGs, that is, the goals to eradicate poverty and hunger, reduce child mortality, improve maternal health, combat disease, empower women, and achieve universal primary education,” said Bloem.

Bloem says grassroots “maternal education, breastfeeding and vitamin and mineral supplements and fortified foods are incredibly economical, highly available interventions for babies in the first 1,000 days of a child’s critical development are investments that deliver healthy, thriving children who can grow into becoming productive adults.”

At the 1,000 Days forum Ugandan Foreign Minister Sam Kutesa described the cycle of under-nourishment and human physical and mental development. “Those who don’t die do not grow well and do not become productive and become dependent on their countries,” he said. “With malnutrition, even children who don’t die soon after being born don’t become productive, which impacts poverty.

“If you don’t deal with nutrition, you don’t deal with poverty. If you deal with nutrition, you are dealing with poverty in Africa,” Kutesa said, urging investment in nutrition and agriculture.

Bread for the World President David Beckmann underscored the basic approaches of a nutritional strategy: Focus on babies for the first 1,000 days. Help parents understand basic health practices such as washing your hands with soap. “You give a few key micronutrients to everybody.” Help communities identify mothers and children in need and get supplements to them. Let countries plan local programs. And focus on agriculture and health development programs.

At the 1,000 Days forum, on the related topic of food security, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said, “The world is moving on food security,” noting the importance of small holder farmers in African and other developing countries and the role of women.  Ban underscored ongoing commitment to “better coordinate agriculture, health and nutrition for long-term results” and acknowledged the support of the USAID Feed the Future initiative.

Emphasizing the Secretary General’s comment, CWS’s Bloem said, “Gender equality and empowerment of women are at the heart of the MDGs. I am absolutely convinced that the reason we did make some progress on poverty alleviation, but far less around hunger and education, has to do with our slow progress concerning women’s empowerment. Church World Service will continue to push for this; it is at the core of much of the development work that we do worldwide.”

 * Source: Household Food Security in the United States, 2008 . U.S. Department of Agriculture, Economic Research Service, November 2009. (Table 1A, Table 1B)

Media Contact:
Lesley Crosson, 212-870-2676, lcrosson@churchworldservice.org
Jan Dragin, 781-925-1526, jdragin@gis.net


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