I could inundate you with data about the more than 800 million people who go without basic nutrition on a daily basis—about the child who dies every 11 seconds due to the underlying effects of poor nutrition or the reality that some three million children each year are robbed of the opportunity to live out their full, God-given potential.
Or I could focus on the solution and tell you what numerous humanitarian aid groups dedicated to child well-being know will make a difference. Many of these aid groups support a new proposal to the U.S. government, developed in consultation with more than 100 nutrition, health, and agriculture experts, called Nourish the Future, because it focuses on a nutrition-based solution. We believe such an approach will dramatically change the lives and well-being of children at risk of malnutrition and even death. I believe in our country’s ability to boldly lead an effective global response to food security and adequate nutrition and this initiative offers a blueprint for faith-based and U.S. government action.
Malnutrition in children results in lifelong physical and cognitive damage; it is a daunting foe, but we can win this battle. Some of the greatest investments one can make to transform a young life is to invest in global nutrition programs early, offering the bedrock of every healthy human life and the opportunity to grow and flourish — physically, mentally, and spiritually. As a Christian organization, Food for the Hungry is morally bound to act. We know that no child should bear the consequences of malnutrition when our planet produces enough nutritious food to feed every mouth here and abroad. Changing the course of malnutrition around the world requires investment, fortitude, and concerted action by more than just one organization.
In the last two decades, undernutrition had been cut by a third; that’s 55 million healthier children according to UNICEF. However, after decades of success, progress against malnutrition is going in the wrong direction. The reason nearly a billion people can no longer adequately access, afford, and utilize nutritious foods after years of improvements is due to the concurrent rises in global poverty, conflict, climate change, and COVID-19. Vulnerable communities are slipping into food insecurity around the world, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa and Asia. Tragically, we know the worst is yet to come in many places, including Haiti and Afghanistan where food insecurity is dramatically spiking due to recent crises.
Not surprisingly, food security and child nutrition have long had strong bipartisan support in Congress, across administrations, and throughout faith communities. Nourish the Future is a comprehensive strategy that prioritizes proven and scalable interventions that any one of us would want for our children. It advocates for unprecedented coordination of health and food security systems to tackle malnutrition in all its forms across nine high-burden countries.
One of the ways Nourish the Future proposes strengthening health systems is by integrating key nutrition interventions – called the ‘Power 4’ – into national health systems and community health worker protocols. The Power 4 is critical for the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, starting at pregnancy by providing a special form of 15 prenatal vitamins and minerals that reduce the odds of infant death. Then mothers need to be trained in exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months to build a baby’s strong and lifelong immune system; low-cost vitamin A drops are given twice a year from six to 59 months to minimize risks of blindness and mortality; and when children are in nutritional danger, we make sure ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF), nutrition-dense medicinal food, is available at the community healthcare level. This plan also proposes scaling up the production of diverse and nutritious foods, more biofortified and drought-resistant crops, and enriches staple foods with essential vitamins and minerals.
Food for the Hungry fully supports this initiative and invites fellow Christian organizations to join in support as well. We believe its adoption and impact could be powerful and invite readers to learn more and sign on in support here.
With effective, concerted action on nutrition, like Nourish the Future, children win and we all win. If implemented, the global economy will see a minimum economic return of $56 billion by saving lives over five years, according to preliminary data from Johns Hopkins University, and increasing lifelong productivity. UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore says, “Nourish the Future provides a visionary and actionable roadmap to take these solutions to scale, get back on track, and end malnutrition for good.”
Our world is hurting, and we cannot be bystanders. As followers of Christ, the Lord calls each of us to be advocates for the least among us, in the ways in which God has lifted up and empowered the many marginalized throughout God’s life. We urge the U.S. government to seize this opportunity to lead the way with expertise, influence, and increased investment in proven solutions that prioritize health plus nutrition, in the global health and development budget. This calling is not ours to neglect.