A landmark new study from The World Bank, Results for Development Institute, and 1,000 Days released on Sunday estimated that ending severe malnutrition worldwide will require an additional annual investment of $7 billion for the next 10 years.
We’ve known for a long time that world leaders have massively under-invested in the basic nutrition of the world’s poorest and most vulnerable people. Now we know what it will take to fix it.
One in five of all maternal deaths is caused by malnutrition – a preventable and senseless tragedy that must end. No mother should die giving life. Because many of the risks from malnutrition start before pregnancy, women and girls hold the keys to ending the intergenerational cycle of hunger, malnutrition, and extreme poverty.
Malnutrition is the result of insufficient food intake (hunger), inadequate food (lack of essential vitamins and minerals), and it is the underlying cause of 45 percent of under-five child deaths. Malnutrition is also a profound contributor to the cycle of extreme poverty. A quarter of children under five years old are stunted (too short for their age), permanently leaving them with diminished cognitive and physical development, reduced productive capacity, and poor health.
Efforts to improve the basic nutrition of those living in the poorest parts of the world receive shockingly little investment from world leaders, who spend less than 1 percent of development assistance on basic nutrition, despite it being one of the most cost effective investments in fighting extreme poverty that you can make. Like dangerous roads, dirty water, and a lack of electricity, poor nutrition is part of the infrastructure on which extreme poverty festers. Improving nutrition and ending extreme poverty are inextricably linked.
There’s no question that finding an additional $7 billion per year for nutrition will be a daunting challenge, but the world faced a similar test 15 years ago in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Today, we are tantalizingly close to winning that fight.
The opportunity to save the lives of nearly 4 million children, to ensure that 50 million children don’t suffer from stunted development, and to keep more than 500 million women from suffering from anemia is one to which world leaders must respond with an historic increase in nutrition funding.
In the coming weeks, ONE will launch a worldwide campaign to mobilize its 7 million members to urge their lawmakers to prioritize investments in basic nutrition programs. It’s time to make a down payment on this fight. This is an opportunity to improve and save the lives of millions in the developing world, while helping them grow their economies and stop extreme poverty in their communities.