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Canadian International Development Agency
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WASHINGTON, April 24, 2010—With malnutrition causing the deaths of as many as 3 million mothers and young children every year, ministers, heads of development agencies, and civil society organizations attending the World Bank and IMF Spring Meetings are appealing to governments worldwide to invest more in halving the rate of malnutrition, one of the 2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs).
Meeting for a high-level nutrition roundtable in Washington—co-hosted by Canada, Japan, the United States, through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and the World Bank—ministers and other senior representatives heard how better nutrition―called the "forgotten MDG" for its historical neglect by aid donors―would not only sharply reduce hunger and malnutrition but also would significantly improve the health of mothers and children worldwide since research shows that malnourished mothers cannot deliver healthy children, and undernourished children are more likely to die. Focusing nutrition interventions on this special window of opportunity from pre-pregnancy until 2 years of age is therefore crucial to achieving many of the MDGs, especially MDGs 4 and 5. Despite the potential high returns to nutrition investments, latest OECD figures show that overseas development aid for nutrition has been modest, with commitments of less than $300 million a year.
Senior officials, including country ministers of finance and planning from Rwanda, Guatemala, Bolivia, and Ethiopia, and Josette Sheeran, Executive Director of the UN World Food Programme, attended the meeting, which announced two new significant initiatives and commitments to invest more in nutrition and its broader development gains.
“As a leader in micronutrient investments, Canada welcomes renewed international attention to nutrition as a development priority,” said the Honourable Beverley J. Oda, Minister of International Cooperation, Canada. “We have been working hard with our global nutrition partners to build this momentum and will champion nutrition as part of the maternal and child health initiative at the G8 Summit in June.”
The meeting also endorsed a new multi-partner effort called Scaling up Nutrition: A Framework for Action (www.inffoundation.org/publications/policy-brief.htm; Introducing the Policy Brief by David Nabarro), to fight malnutrition using cost-effective and proven interventions to prioritize actions for pregnant women and children under the age of 24 months. The framework carries the endorsement of more than 80 multilateral, bilateral, academic, and civil society agencies and institutions that are active in the nutrition and development field. Held at World Bank headquarters, the nutrition meeting described the new framework as “historic” for the way in which the global nutrition community had rallied for the first time around a common agenda and solutions to the problems of malnutrition.
According to the World Bank, malnutrition is a leading cause of death of mothers and young children worldwide and even for those fortunate enough to survive it in early childhood, its harmful effects stay with them for the rest of their lives. Survivors are likely to start school later, more likely to drop out of school, and less able to learn because their brain functioning and learning capacities were compromised during early years.
“Malnourishment not only means children have to suffer but it also makes them less-productive adults,” World Bank Group President Robert B. Zoellick said. “We need to break the vicious cycle of poverty and malnutrition to give people opportunity and to achieve sustained economic growth. The new multi-partner Framework for Action represents a united call to action for this ‘forgotten MDG.’”
During the meeting, USAID announced, for the first time, the Feed the Future priority countries. USAID’s Feed the Future strategy is a comprehensive initiative that targets the causes of hunger and aims to reduce poverty, hunger, and undernutrition at national scale. USAID is working with governments in Africa, Asia, and Latin America to develop comprehensive, multi-sectoral plans to invest in food security and nutrition, including programs to boost agricultural productivity, expand access to markets, reduce undernutrition, and improve resilience to food security shocks.
"The Lancet says as many as 3 million mothers and young children die of malnutrition each year," said Dr. Rajiv Shah, the USAID Administrator. "For too long, nutrition has been separated from agricultural practices and food policy. We must strive to make fortified foods more available and step up proven ways to change women's and young infants’ feeding and caring behavior where needed, through community-based programs. The approach that we're working out today marks a turning point in the way we see how agriculture and nutrition policy interact."
As announced at the meeting, Feed the Future priority countries include Ethiopia, Ghana, Kenya, Liberia, Mali, Malawi, Mozambique, Rwanda, Senegal, Tanzania, Uganda, and Zambia in Africa; Bangladesh, Cambodia, Nepal, and Tajikistan in Asia; and Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, and Nicaragua in Latin America.
With 2010 marking the five-year countdown to achieving the 2015 MDGs and evidence that food prices are rising again in developing countries, Dr. David Nabarro, Special Representative of UN Secretary General BAN Ki-Moon for Food Security and Nutrition, said: “Food and nutrition security is the prerequisite for a decent and productive life and the achievement of all Millennium Development Goals. It is our collective responsibility to ensure food and nutrition security for all through synergy across the full range of sectors. The Scaling Up Nutrition—or SUN—Framework has the potential to mobilize all of us behind a smart new approach for vastly better development outcomes.”
During the meeting, Japan spoke about the Japan Trust Fund for Scaling up Nutrition Investments, an initiative to build operational capacities for nutrition interventions in high-malnutrition-burden countries in order to boost investments and scale up International Development Association support. It aims to establish a common platform for the international community to boost necessary resources for enhanced service delivery in most high-burden countries.
“By addressing the multiple facets of undernutrition in the youngest children of today, countries and communities will be stronger and more resilient in the face of future shocks such as the food, fuel, and financial crises,” said Nobumitsu Hayashi, Deputy Director-General, International Bureau, Ministry of Finance, Japan. “Now is the time to coordinate action and harmonize funding at the global and national levels.”
The United Kingdom Department for International Development (DFID) also announced during the meeting the South Asia Food and Nutrition Security Initiative (SAFANS), which will support work in Afghanistan, Bangladesh, India, Nepal, and Pakistan. The joint DFID/World Bank initiative aims to improve food security and nutritional outcomes across the South Asia region, which will be accomplished through improving the evidence base, increasing awareness, and building capacity.
Throughout the meeting, members of country delegations from many sectors—including finance, health, planning, agriculture, and social protection—as well as civil society organizations and bilateral partners, highlighted progress in and challenges to scaling up proven, effective approaches to address the scourge of undernutrition.
"Many civil society groups around the world are thrilled that there is now international consensus about the most effective strategy to tackle undernutrition,” said Bread for the World President David Beckmann. “That provides a solid, politically attractive basis for action."
Participants also viewed the newly released video, Investing in Nutrition: Let’s Grow Together (www.youtube.com/watch?v=yysyFtjcgzE), and agreed that nutrition investments need to target the window of minus 9 months and 2 years of age for the highest impacts on child mortality, maternal health, optimal physical and intellectual development of children, and future economic productivity and growth. This approach needs to work in tandem with better results in reproductive health, social protection, gender, early childhood development, and agriculture and food security and overall poverty-fighting programs. Participants stressed that good nutrition is a basic human right for all children.
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About the Co-hosts
Canadian International Development Agency
The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) supports using an evidence-based approach to guide investments in nutrition, and to focus on affordable, high-impact activities that produce sustainable results. As a leader in micronutrient investments, Canada is the world’s largest donor of vitamin A, a significant funder of salt iodization programs, and one of the top donors to the World Food Programme’s school feeding efforts. For more information on CIDA’s support to nutrition investments, please visit http://www.acdi-cida.gc.ca/acdi-cida/ACDI-CIDA.nsf/eng/FRA-330153122-QW6.
Government of Japan
The Government of Japan is committed to supporting the scaling up of nutrition investments in high-malnutrition-burden countries. Japan’s Scaling-up Nutrition Trust Fund was launched jointly with the World Bank in July 2009 with an aim to develop countries’ capacities to boost investments and generate demand in the nutrition sector.
The American people, through the U.S. Agency for International Development, have provided economic and humanitarian assistance worldwide for nearly 50 years. Feed the Future, USG’s global hunger and food security initiative, is a challenge and an opportunity to tackle the root causes of hunger and poverty. USAID supports nutrition programs in more than 20 countries, reaching over 20 million children. For more information about USAID's programs, please visit: www.usaid.gov/.
The World Bank is committed to reversing trends in undernutrition among the most vulnerable populations—pregnant women and children under age 2—by increasing investment in nutrition in high-malnutrition-burden countries. The World Bank brings its ability to act multi-sectorally and build robust governance systems and program delivery capacities, and its capacity to act at scale in countries. For more information on the World Bank’s support to nutrition investments, please visit the Bank’s nutrition website (www.worldbank.org/hnp, click on “Nutrition”).