By Jordan Teague
This year, Bread for the World members all over the United States have called, emailed, and visited their members of Congress about the 2016 Offering of Letters: Survive and Thrive. These countless conversations have made sure that global maternal and child nutrition is on the radar of congressional offices and shows members of Congress that their constituents care about the nutrition of mothers and children around the world.
While Bread’s initial request of $230 million for maternal and child nutrition in global health programs was not met, this does not mean that we should give up or that the fight for global maternal and child nutrition is over. Congress still has not drafted and passed a final spending bill for fiscal year 2017. Even though reaching $230 million for global nutrition is unlikely at this point in the budget and appropriations process, there is still an opportunity to advocate for increased funding during the negotiation process for that final spending bill.
More funding for global maternal and child nutrition is still needed. Significant progress has been made in reducing childhood stunting over the last several years, but new estimates show that 156 million children still suffer the consequences of chronic malnutrition, or are both physically and mentally stunted. In order to make a significant impact on malnutrition, donors and governments alike, along with businesses and non-profit organizations, need to scale up financing for nutrition as part of foreign assistance and domestic spending. There is an annual financing gap of $7 billion from what is currently funded to what is needed.
Congress can take a first step toward helping bridge this gap by increasing the funding going to nutrition in global health programs in fiscal year 2017. Since the final spending bill has not been drafted or passed, negotiations will likely be ongoing through December of this year. This will be a chance for legislators to increase global nutrition funding should there be an opportunity during negotiations. To this end, Bread for the World led a community sign-on letter to appropriators requesting that they take the opportunity to increase global nutrition funding, should one arise. Thirty-one organizations signed on to the letter, showing broad support from civil society for an increase in funding for global nutrition from Congress.
Do not be discouraged that Congress has thus far recommended only $125 million for global nutrition in fiscal year 2017. While there is no guarantee, there is still a chance to increase this funding and Bread for the World will continue to advocate for this until the end of the budget and appropriations process – we encourage you to do the same!
Jordan Teague is the international policy analyst for food security and nutrition at Bread for the World.