World economists agree: child nutrition is a best buy in development

What would you do if you had $75 billion and four years to improve the world’s well-being?

Recently 65 world-renowned researchers, economists and Nobel laureates got together and answered that question. They released their findings yesterday after more than a year of reviewing proposals and evidence, thanks to the Copenhagen Consensus Center. Being economists, they weighed their choices carefully using cost-benefit analyses. Seventy-five billion dollars may sound like a lot, but $18.75 billion (1/4 of $75 billion) represents only a 15 percent increase on top of the current $130 billion that developed nations spend annually on foreign aid.

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Photo credit: Trevor Snapp/ Helen Keller International

Given the budget constraint, only 16 interventions stood out to the panel as worthy investments:

1. Bundled nutrition interventions in preschoolers
2. Expanding the Subsidy for Malaria Combination Treatment
3. Expanded childhood immunization coverage
4. Deworming of schoolchildren
5. Expanding tuberculosis treatment
6. R&D to increase yields, fight biodiversity destruction, and lessen the effects of climate change
7. Early warning systems to protect populations against natural disasters

8. Strengthening surgical capacity
9. Hepatitis B immunization
10. Using low‐cost drugs in the case of acute heart attacks in poorer nations
11. Salt reduction campaign to reduce chronic disease
12. Geo‐engineering R&D
13. Conditional cash transfers for school attendance
14. Accelerated HIV vaccine R&D
15. Extended field trials of information campaigns on the benefits of schooling
16. Borehole and public hand pumps

If you follow ONE’s blog and campaigns regularly, you’ll notice that ONE advocates for many of these interventions. Currently, Thrive –- ONE’s campaign to break the cycle of poverty and malnutrition — is campaigning for #1, #4, #6, and #7 (in bold above). Intervention #1 bundles micronutrients, deworming and nutrition education, and the panel’s Outcomes Report recommends that donors spend $3 billion of the $18.75 billion per year on this bundle — very similar to what ONE recommended in our report “Food. Farming. Future.” This research is also corroborated by what our friends at 1,000 Days have been saying for, oh, nearly 1,000 days.

Almost 300,000 ONE members have signed our petition to lift 50 million people out of poverty and prevent stunting in 15 million kids. Despite this and clear evidence that agriculture and nutrition interventions are best buys in development, it is still unclear whether the world’s richest governments are going to seize this opportunity. Now, with just four days until the G8 summit at Camp David, leaders need to take action on country-owned agriculture and nutrition.

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