The U.S. Agency for International Development, with help from National Security Advisor Susan Rice, announced Thursday a new “multi-sectoral nutrition strategy” which aims to reduce by 2 million over five years the number of chronically malnourished and “stunted” children worldwide and also to keep acute malnutrition below 15 percent in places experiencing humanitarian crisis.
The new strategy will focus on “the 1,000 days from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday” and seek to integrate that focus into USAID’s largest programming streams — health, agriculture and humanitarian assistance — according to an agency release. Adequate nutrition during that 1,000-day time period is critical to a child’s development, and under-nutrition for mothers and children during that time can cause stunting, which has been linked to cognitive impairment and poor health outcomes.
“Nothing demands more of our attention than ending preventable child and maternal death. The health of our mothers and children is the anchor of global prosperity, and that is why USAID is focusing on new, innovative ways to reduce severe malnutrition, which causes half of all child deaths worldwide,” said Rajiv Shah, the USAID administrator.
The announcement took place at the Chicago Council’s Global Food Security Symposium in Washington, where most of the attention focused on the threat posed by climate change to food security and the international community’s lack of preparation for food-related climate change impacts.
Several U.S. officials already championed the new “360-degree approach” to nutrition in the weeks leading up to its unveiling. In her March testimony before a House subcommittee, USAID Acting Assistant to the Administrator Tjada McKenna told Congress, “USAID will address nutrition with more discipline than ever before, developing country nutrition frameworks … setting country-specific targets, and tracking and reporting on nutrition progress.”
McKenna hinted, “The USAID strategy is informing a broader U.S. government-wide nutrition coordination plan, which is currently being developed. For the first time, the U.S. Nutrition Coordination Plan will bring together all the U.S. government agencies working in global nutrition with the purpose of maximizing impact through better coordination of U.S. government global nutrition investments.”
According to Thursday’s release, the USAID strategy will focus on setting and monitoring nutrition targets, “high impact actions,” and “targeted, cost-effective solutions with private sector partners.”
Several other leading global development organizations have sharpened their focus on nutrition lately, and made the link to stunting, including the U.K. Department for International Development, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.
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