It’s been called “The Lottery of Birth.”
Despite huge gains in reducing child mortality, where children are born still often determines whether they live or die. Here at ONE, we often repeat this phrase—but once you are born, shouldn’t you be given a chance not just to survive, but thrive? That is the aim of Global Goal 2: to end hunger and achieve food security, improved nutrition, and sustainable agriculture.
This week in New York City, world leaders are gathered to agree on the Global Goals. Today, some of those leaders will be joining experts for the launch of the 2015 Global Nutrition Report, which outlines the world’s progress towards ending malnutrition in all of its forms.
Though there was a goal on hunger, nutrition wasn’t directly addressed in the Millennium Development Goals. There were a few reasons for this. The evidence base at the time wasn’t as strong or well-known as it is today. Nutrition is an issue that cuts across health, agriculture, and many other sectors—and therefore has no natural advocates in government ministries.
What we have learned in the past decade, however, points to the fact that if we want to continue to make progress on reducing child mortality and deliver sustainable economic development for the world, we must address malnutrition.
The statistics from the report are crystal clear: Half of all child deaths can be attributed to malnutrition. It is estimated that in Malawi, childhood stunting costs the country 10% of its annual GDP. To put it into perspective, during the recession after the U.S. financial crisis, U.S. GDP shrank by 5.1% over two years, only half of what Malawi loses every year from stunting alone. Evidence from Brazil shows that when infants are breastfed for more than 12 months, they have a 33% increase in lifetime income. Just $1 of investment in nutrition yields $16 dollars in return. Despite this evidence, less than 1% of official development assistance goes to nutrition, and governments allocate on average about 1% of national budgets to it.
Fortunately, we have some good news: The latest Global Nutrition Report also states categorically that the goal of ending malnutrition by 2030 is not just aspirational—it is wholly achievable!
Just in the last year, progress in reducing malnutrition has been speeding up, and some countries in Africa are leading the way. For example, Kenya is the only country in the world that is on track to meet all of the globally agreed targets on undernutrition, Ghana is close, and Ethiopia, Tanzania, and Rwanda are making faster progress than ever!
Since 2014 alone, 24 additional countries have moved from off- to on-track to meet global targets on stunting, which permanently diminishes the physical and mental health of 161 million children annually.
This week is an important one, but it is only the opening bell in a series of moments looking at ending hunger and malnutrition. On October 16 in Milan, Italy, we will celebrate World Food Day, and next August around the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, world leaders will gather for the second Nutrition for Growth event.