Nutrition for Growth – a Boost for Education and Health

The Nutrition for Growth Summit aimed to increase political and financial support for nutrition-specific interventions.

June 13, 2013 by Sarah Beeching
7 minutes read
Credit: Jamie Martin / World Bank

Nutrition for Growth Summit in London agreed on global compact and new funding

Last Saturday on June 8, I had the exciting task of running the Nutrition for Growth Summit in London. The culmination of months of work, and a collaborative partnership between DFID, the Government of Brazil and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation, the aim of the meeting was to significantly ratchet up political and financial support to deliver programmes that focus on nutrition-specific interventions.

Undernutrition is a chronic lack of nutrients that can result in death, stunted physical development and more illnesses in later life. It is the biggest underlying cause of death in under-five-year-olds in the world and is responsible for 8,000 child deaths each day. According to Save the Children, undernutrition stunts the growth of children, reducing their potential, undermining their adult earnings by as much as 20%. Children who are stunted score 7% lower in math tests and are 19% less likely to be able to read aged 8.   In some countries the size of the economy is reduced by 11% as a result[i].

Undernutrition is the leading cause of child death

A study released by the Lancet last week showed almost half of global child deaths are attributable to undernutrition. The impact on education is self evident. A child who is stunted, or undernourished will be challenged to get the best out of education.  Equally, educated adults, and especially mothers, are far more likely to provide the right kinds of foods at the right time to their children.  Good nutrition is a prerequisite for children to achieve at school. Good education will ensure that the cycle of undernutrition in a family is broken.

The Nutrition for Growth Summit began with a sense of great expectation and trepidation.  A team had worked throughout the night on the commitments document, gathering and analysing the details and collating endorsements for the Global Nutrition for Growth Compact (PDF).

Malawi’s President Joyce Banda, United Nations (UN) Special Envoy for Nutrition, David Nabarro, the prime ministers of Tanzania, Uganda, Ireland and Niger, the vice presidents of Guatemala and Zambia, Bill Gates, almost all heads of United Nations agencies, over 30 ministers, CEOs from the corporate world and members of civil society organizations took their seats to listen to UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon. The opening addresses from  United Kingdom Prime Minister David Cameron, Brazilian Vice President Michel Temer and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation President Jamie Cooper-Hohn opened the way to day-long discussions on how to tackle and fund undernutrition.

Prime Minister Cameron said, ”165 million children are so malnourished by the age of two  that their minds and bodies will never fully develop.  This is a massive issue for humanity, and it’s absolutely right that as Britain hosts the G8 Summit we should call this conference today.”

Financial commitments from 14 governments & new donor funding

Over the course of the day over 70 speeches were made which included commitments from 14 Governments to increase the domestic resources to scale- up national nutrition plans.   Donors made new commitments of up to $4.15 billion to tackle under-nutrition until 2020.

An additional $19 billion was committed to improve nutrition outcomes in other sectors, such as maternal and child health, agriculture and education.  The challenge will be to ensure that these investments deliver results for undernourished boys and girls all over the word.

The commitments mean that funding on nutrition will effectively double from about $418 million a year to about $900 million a year between now and 2020. The United Kingdom has committed an additional $1 billion in the next seven years, while the European Commission will contribute €3.5 billion between 2014 and 2020. This is a big success and good news for millions of undernourished children around the world.

“Today we have seen a historic shift with nutrition taking its place at the heart of the health, education and economic development agendas. The investments announced today will transform the lives of millions of children as well as the economic growth and prosperity of nations,” said Jamie Cooper-Hohn, President and CEO of the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation.

It was an historic day – not just for nutrition, which has now found its place at the center of the development agenda. But also for development more broadly.  As the Global Nutrition for Growth Compact states “undernutrition is the worst face of poverty, and has no place in the 21st century.” If all the commitments made are honored, we may finally turn a corner and eradicate the scourge of undernutrition forever.

See the full commitments here.

Link to the recorded conference webcast here

Follow Twitter feed: #nutritionforgrowth

[i]‘ Malnutrition. Global economic losses attributable to malnutrition 1900-200 and projections to 2050.’ by  Sue Horton and Richard H. Steckel. Forthcoming 2013, in “The Economics of Human Challenges”, ed B. Lomborg.. Cambridge University Press.

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