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High Level Global Attention to Maternal and Child Nutrition

By Asma Lateef on September 23, 2011
© 1,000 Days Blog

Asma Lateef is the Director of Bread for the World Institute.

Though there’s been progress, more than 3 million children die needlessly every year due to malnutrition. Better nutrition in the 1,000 days window—between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday—is an achievable, cost-effective way to bring those numbers down and spare survivors lifelong disabilities.

This week, two important events marked the one-year anniversary of a new international effort to do just that: the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement and the 1,000 Days Partnership (which focuses on jump-starting the initiative in its first 1,000 days). On Tuesday, September 20, a High Level Meeting on Nutrition during the United Nations General Assembly celebrated the progress that has been made over the last 364 days and strongly reaffirmed global commitment to scaling up nutrition over the next 636 days.

On Wednesday, September 21, there was a full-day workshop to learn from the experiences of the countries that came forward in the first year of the effort to commit to scaling up nutrition. Each country was represented by a delegation that included key government officials; many delegations also had civil society representatives. The very rich presentations of the country delegations and panelists drew out some early learnings and challenges that will guide members of the SUN Transition Team and Task Forces for the next 636 days.

A year of important progress:
The compelling message of the SUN movement that the first 1,000 days are critical—a time when investing in a baby’s nutrition is also investing in his or her lifelong health, development, and productivity—is now being heard and acted upon. Josette Sheeran, executive director of the World Food Program, observed that the SUN Movement “is now moving from vision to execution and results.”

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, who along with the Irish Foreign Minister launched the 1,000 Days Partnership last year, called the SUN Movement a model of aid effectiveness. “Through the SUN movement,” Clinton said, “we are seeing better results with country-owned leadership. When programs are coordinated and evidence-based, we get better outcomes.”

Key learnings from the two days:
• The international community should rally around a specific shared nutrition goal—to boost advocacy efforts, build partnerships, and hold all stakeholders accountable—and strengthen data and tracking systems.
• Leadership matters at the country level and at the international level. Countries that have moved quickly to put plans into action have strong leadership and coordination mechanisms at the highest levels of government.
• Nutrition champions can help build political will. The former president of Cape Verde has become a regional nutrition leader—engaging West African leaders on the importance of prioritizing nutrition.
• Funding levels fall far short of the need and must be dramatically increased.
• Civil society can be a vibrant force for change and should be actively involved in developing, implementing, and monitoring nutrition programs.
• Sustained progress will require a multisectoral and multistakeholder approach that includes prioritizing nutrition in agriculture, health, education, and social protection programs and partnering with the private sector.

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