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The importance of good nutrition

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graph_2pager_eng_low_resPoor nutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life – from a woman’s pregnancy to that child’s second birthday – can lock them into a lifetime of health and social challenges that are devastating and irreversible. During this critical period, if children don’t get the vital ingredients they need to grow their bodies and develop their brains, they are not only more likely to get sick, and die, from diseases throughout their whole life, but they will also earn less than their peers when they enter adulthood.

There can be few greater injustices than a child whose potential and future is robbed off them before their life has barely started, condemned to a life less healthy and less productive than it could have been. Wasting the potential of one in four children. Stunting the economic growth of nations.

It doesn’t have to be this way. The first 1,000 days of a child’s life also provide us with an incredible window of opportunity to help ensure their health is protected and that their potential is maximized.

Stunting undermines the ability of individuals and communities to reach their full potential. Optimum infant and young child feeding takes time, breastfeeding requires space and privacy for the mother which is so often not available. Good feeding means access to nutritious food which is often made difficult by illness. Delivering on the promise of the 2030 Agenda will not be possible without rapid progress towards ending malnutrition and at the same time a lasting end to malnutrition cannot be achieved in isolation.”

David Nabarro, Special Advisor on the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development and Climate, former SUN Movement Coordinator and member of the SUN Movement Lead Group.

Small steps for both mother and child – proven to be effective – can make a big difference collectively. These include promoting early and exclusive breastfeeding; educating mothers about health and diverse diets for their babies and good hygiene practices; providing supplements for women during pregnancy and for infants after birth; encouraging farmers to produce diverse and nutritious foods; and legislating the production of fortified staple foods.

These interventions can reshape a child’s future, giving them the best chance to become healthy and productive members of society. But if we scaled them up, so that we reach every would-be mother and every child, we can progress communities and rewrite the future of nations. There are few, if any, better investments that a country can make.

For every dollar invested in nutrition, a country can expect to get $16 back in increased productivity.

diagram_srThe scale of malnutrition

There are few challenges facing the global community today that match the scale of malnutrition, a condition that directly affects one in three people.  The inter-agency team (UNICEF, WHO and the World Bank Group) releases annual joint estimates of child stunting, overweight, underweight, wasting and severe wasting and the Global Nutrition Report (GNR) is the only independent and comprehensive annual review of the state of the world’s nutrition.

Tackling undernutrition needs:

  • multiple stakeholders, led by Governments, supported by the UN, Civil Society, Business, Academia and Donors
  • multiple sectors, including health, agriculture, women’s empowerment, planning, social protection, education and more
  • at multiple levels, from the highest levels of government to local community leaders.