News / Africa

Mobilizing to End Child Hunger

Two-year-old Nyagod Kuel attempts to eat on her bed in a hospital ward in Akobo, southeastern Sudan, December 2010. The U.N. had once called the region the "hungriest place on earth." (File)
Two-year-old Nyagod Kuel attempts to eat on her bed in a hospital ward in Akobo, southeastern Sudan, December 2010. The U.N. had once called the region the "hungriest place on earth." (File)

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Joe DeCapua

Ending child hunger is the goal of a meeting here in Washington Monday. Government officials, nutrition and health experts and members of civil society from around the world are promoting the 1,000 Days Partnership. The goal is to save the lives of millions of children.

“The 1,000 Days Partnership is really a call to action to address this issue. It was launched in September 2010 by Secretary Clinton to really focus international attention on the 1,000 days, which is really the window of opportunity from the time a woman gets pregnant to the time a child is age two,” said U.S. Undersecretary of State Maria Otero.

We know what to do

The science and know-how exist, she said, to end child hunger. Otero added when children go hungry the effects are widespread and long-lasting.

“The figures are really quite striking. Globally, we know that about 200 million suffer from chronic undernutrition. And every year we see that undernutrition can cost up to three and a half million child deaths. This reality is unacceptable,” she said.

What’s more, she said that when children are undernourished before age two, they are more likely to have long-term health problems. They’re also more likely to do poorly in school and have lower economic prospects as adults.

Among those supporting the partnership is World Food Prize laureate and Bread for the World President Rev. David Beckmann.

He said, “It’s about new hope for reducing child malnutrition in the world. World hunger has increased over the last several years, mainly because of high prices for grains. Government budgets are tight. But I think providentially, the world also has new knowledge about the best ways, the most impactful ways to reduce child malnutrition. And some of the world’s leaders are in fact leading a one thousand day campaign to get these new ideas put into practice in the countries where malnutrition is concentrated.”

G8 promise

Paul Weisenfeld of USAID, the U.S. development agency, said world leaders pledged at the L’Aquila summit to ensure food security.

In 2009, at the G8 summit, the international community made a really important commitment to increase the focus on food security. It was intended to reverse a decades-long decline in assistance for agricultural development. And the idea behind this was also at the same time to accelerate global momentum linking nutrition and agriculture in a way that we’ve never done before,” he said.

U.S. officials call the 1,000 Days Partnership the defining link between the Feed the Future and Global Health presidential Initiatives.

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