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From the Institute: Bread for the World "Scales Up" Advocacy on Nutrition

December 2012

Over the past five years, the world has become increasingly aware of the importance of good nutrition, particularly very early in life. Malnutrition contributes to the deaths of millions of young children every year, so reducing it is a critical step toward achieving Bread for the World's mission of ending hunger in God’s world.

Fortunately, there is now very strong evidence that simple, cost-effective strategies can go a long way toward preventing and treating malnutrition. The most important time to reach people is the 1,000-day "window of opportunity" between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday. This is a period when getting the right nutrients does the most good and, conversely, when malnutrition causes irreversible damage to physical and cognitive development.

The Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, which began in 2010, brings together developing countries to support each other in expanding effective nutrition efforts to all in need. SUN’s vision is a world where every woman and child is adequately nourished—a major challenge since currently 25 percent of all the world’s children are stunted. SUN includes governments, civil society, businesses, citizens, and the international community. By September 2012, there were 30 SUN countries.

Asma Lateef, director of Bread for the World Institute, has been a leader of Bread's efforts to spur progress on nutrition during the 1,000 Days, notably by supporting civil society engagement in SUN’s work. Recently, Lateef was named to the steering committee of SUN’s Civil Society Network, which includes civil society organizations both within SUN countries and at the global level. The network enables activists from different countries to share experiences and build knowledge and understanding of what works best and how to overcome obstacles.

"Civil society organizations are the groups that are working in communities and carrying out nutrition projects," she explains. "So it's very important for civil society to be involved if nutrition initiatives are going to reach the people most affected by malnutrition."

Lateef points out that Bread's engagement with the SUN Civil Society Network is a natural continuation of our longtime advocacy for elevating voices from civil society in policy discussions. In turn, "what Bread brings [to the Civil Society Network] is the understanding of advocacy and how to mobilize people to work for policy change."

Like Bread members, civil society activists in SUN countries are following events and engaging with their governments. They are working to ensure that the right steps are being taken to scale up nutrition to reach everyone in need. Because the world now has solid evidence of what works in preventing and treating malnutrition, activists want to be sure that this data is used as the basis for scaling up nutrition programs.

"The Civil Society Network will be gathering information about what's happening on the ground that it's important for the international nutrition community to have as well," Lateef says. "One way to think of it is as an information loop to help inform everyone's policy and advocacy efforts."

On the steering committee, Lateef will be considering how best to help civil society groups in SUN countries build their capacity and the most useful ways for groups to exchange experiences with others, as well as the most effective ways to disseminate civil society's data, information, and experiences to global and national policy makers. The steering committee also represents civil society at international nutrition meetings and identifies priority areas where additional resources could be effectively used.

Lateef has been working with SUN since its earliest days. In June 2011, she was instrumental in organizing an international meeting, 1,000 Days to Scale Up Nutrition for Mothers and Children: Building Political Commitment, that brought nutrition advocates and civil society leaders from SUN countries and the international community to Washington, DC. Participants gathered to review progress and make further plans to develop the ability of civil society to contribute to efforts to end malnutrition. Bread activists also participated in the meeting, which was cosponsored by Bread for the World Institute and Concern Worldwide and held in conjunction with Bread’s 2011 National Gathering.

One result of the international meeting was the formation of Women of Faith for 1,000 Days, a group of Bread activists who have been working ever since to communicate to their church networks and communities the importance of supporting good nutrition for pregnant women and very young children around the world. They developed the idea of pledging to hold "1,000 conversations in 1,000 days" to help mobilize U.S. support for global maternal/child nutrition.

For more about the initiative, including resources for beginning such conversations yourself, please visit Women of Faith for the 1,000 Days on Bread’s website.

Photo: Asma Lateef, director of Bread for the World Institute, has been named to the steering committee of Scaling Up Nutrition’s Civil Society Network. Photo by Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World

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