Late last week, the US Government’s Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) signed an impressive landmark $600 million compact with the Government of Indonesia to reduce poverty through economic growth. For the first time in an MCC compact, it includes a $131.5 million nutritional component aimed at reducing and preventing low birth weight, stunting and malnourishment of children in selected provinces.
At the signing ceremony in Bali, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said, “The scientific research is overwhelmingly clear: If you want a healthier, better educated workforce, it starts in those very early months of life. And ultimately, an early focus on nutrition can reduce poverty, promote broader prosperity, and improve the security and stability of communities and nations.”
The community-based health and nutrition project, which is being designed by Indonesia and is a country priority, is projected to benefit up to 2.9 million children and their families in up to 7,000 villages by developing the human capital necessary to increase worker productivity, reduce poverty and stimulate the economy. The preliminary estimate for the economic rate of return for this project is 13 percent.
As Secretary Clinton noted, the evidence base on the benefits of supporting early-life nutritional interventions is clear. The MCC has already been hugely successful in working with countries to support economic growth and improve the lives of millions of people through innovative and results-oriented programs. We are pleased to see through the latest compact, the MCC has demonstrated not only is investing in nutrition for pregnant women, infants and young children the right thing to do, but it is also the economically smart thing to do.