In the not-too-distant-past, improving nutrition lacked the explicit recognition as a top development challenge or priority.
But in just a few years, nutrition has received a whirlwind of attention and increased political will—elevating it to the top of the global development agenda. Just this past June, governments, businesses, foundations and organizations pledged as much as $4.15 billion from now until 2020 for the high-impact, high-return nutrition programs that have the power to change lives and the future.
The U.S. government has played a key role in the global movement to improve nutrition, particularly during the critical 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s 2nd birthday. Its pre-eminent hunger and food security initiative, Feed the Future, has begun to unlock tremendous potential by making nutrition a top line indicator of its investments, measured by a 20% stunting reduction target in its 19 focus countries.
Thanks to a growing body of evidence, we know that the right nutrition during the 1,000-day window is one of the best investments we can make to achieve lasting progress in global health and development. This evidence-base reinforces another critical fact: to get the biggest bang for our development buck, we need to tackle both the direct and indirect causes of malnutrition.
Feed the Future has helped put food and nutrition security back on the global agenda and has done so in a way that bolsters the importance of prioritizing nutrition in other sectors, such as agriculture, to achieve results in economic and human development.
Last year, Feed the Future reached 9 million households and 12 million children, and trained nearly 800,000 individuals in child health and nutrition. Countries are also taking the lead and joining the Scaling Up Nutrition movement: Tanzania designated a national nutrition budget line, launched a National Nutrition Strategy, and was the first country to incorporate nutrition into its Comprehensive Africa Agriculture Development Programme investment plan.
In Guatemala, Feed the Future’s efforts to increase agricultural productivity go hand-in-hand with the Government of Guatemala’s Zero Hunger Pact, an ambitious plan to reduce child undernutrition by focusing on the 1,000-day window. The June 2013 Progress Report and Scorecard indicates that we’re heading in the right direction. Based on preliminary data, stunting has decreased on average by 6% between 2008 and 2012 in Feed the Future countries.
The 1,000 Days partnership has played a crucial role in highlighting the importance of nutrition as a nexus between health and food security. Together with Feed the Future, 1,000 Days has helped shine the spotlight on the role that nutrition plays in ensuring that all children have the opportunity to reach their full potential.
Through a comprehensive, integrated and coordinated nutrition investment and policy strategy we can not only feed the future, but nourish it too.
This post originally appeared on the Thousand Days blog. This is part of a series of guest posts answering the question “How will you feed the future?”