U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other dignitaries are urging a renewed effort to reduce childhood malnutrition. They met Tuesday in New York City on the sidelines of the U.N. Millennium Development Goals summit for what was billed as a 1,000 Days forum.

Each year, 3.5 million mothers, and children under age five, die as a result of malnutrition. Millions of other children suffer chronic effects of poor early nutrition.

A new effort is underway to save them.
< br />At the "1,000 Days" forum, high-level political and private sector officials focused on steps to ensure healthy nutrition for mother and child during the first 1,000 days of life.

"These interventions have the biggest impact when they occur in the first 1,000 days of a child's existence. That begins with pregnancy and continues through a child's second birthday," Clinton said.

She challenged nations to reach benchmarks for improving the health of pregnant women and young children around the world.  "Let today be the first of our own one-thousand days.  One thousand days of focused, concerted efforts to translate our common knowledge and vision into concrete action and then build momentum."

U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon cited the critical role of early proper nutrition in the survival of the world's children.  "Undernourished children are more likely to get sick. They cannot concentrate in school and often earn less as adults. They pay the price throughout their lives," he said.

Mr. Ban also said poor women often do not eat enough nutrient-rich foods during their pregnancy, and  many are too busy working in fields or markets to properly care for their children.

The United Nations Millennium Development Goals seek to dramatically reduce a range of social ills, including hunger and poverty, by 2015.