Briefing Papers Number 7, October 2009

Number 7, October 2009 briefing paper New Hope for Malnourished Mothers and Children by Eric Muñoz Just 36 Countries Account for 90 Percent of the World’s Stunted Children n No data n <20% n 20 – 29.9% n 30 – 39.9% n ≥40% Source: The Lancet. Key Points • The scope of malnutrition is staggering. Women and young children are the hardest hit. In many countries child malnutrition rates are steadily rising. • For children suffering malnutrition the effects will be long-term, even intergenerational. Malnutrition impairs physical growth and cognitive development. • In countries with high levels of childhood malnutrition, the economic loss can be as high as 2-3 percent of GDP. • New evidence shows that interventions to prevent and treat malnutrition of women and children from conception through the first two years of life can save millions of lives and ensure that children grow up to be healthy, strong, productive adults. • As the United States embarks on a new global food security initiative, nutrition must be a central component. Evidence-based nutrition interventions must be scaled up and nutrition must be integrated into programs to improve agriculture and food security. Eric Muñoz is a policy analyst for Bread for the World Institute. Bread for the World Institute provides policy analysis on hunger and strategies to end it. The Institute educates its advocacy network, opinion leaders, policy makers and the public about hunger in the United States and abroad. Abstract Many developing countries have had success in reducing malnutrition. But malnutrition remains pervasive and, in many countries, comes at a very high cost. Each year, millions of children die from malnutrition; millions more suffer ill health and face long-term physical and cognitive impairment, leading to lost productivity. The period between conception and the first two years in a child’s life are critical. The Obama administration’s initiative to fight hunger offers an opportunity to improve nutrition of mothers and children around the world. In addition to the focus on increasing agricultural productivity and raising rural incomes, the administration should scale up nutrition interventions and integrate nutrition into its development programming. It should use improvements in maternal and child nutrition as a key indicator of success. It should support country-led strategies, coordinate with other donors and ensure that U.S. actions and policies do not undermine nutrition objectives.