Nutrition programs focus on evidence-based interventions that are foundational to a child’s life. They prevent stunting, wasting (severe acute malnutrition), and anemia and promote breastfeeding during the first 1,000 days of life—from the start of a woman’s pregnancy to a child’s second birthday. The programs support long-term health, cognitive development, and physical growth.
What does it buy?
Funding provides technical assistance to introduce and increase nutrition activities in priority countries, including education and delivery of services such as micronutrient supplementation and community management of acute malnutrition. Nutrition programs also address nutritional deficiencies and nutrition supplements for pregnant women.
Why is it important?
With the help of U.S. funding, nutrition interventions reached more than 28 million children under five years of age in 2018. Between 2000 and 2018, the number of stunted children under five years of age declined from 198 million to 149 million.
Children who get the right nutrition in their first 1,000 days are 10 times more likely to overcome life-threatening childhood diseases such as malaria.
Breastfeeding interventions have the largest impact on improving a child’s health and cost less than $5 per newborn. Breastfeeding serves as a child’s first immunization to disease.
For every dollar spent on nutrition programs the return on investment is $35 through decreased health care costs and improved economic productivity.
Twenty-two percent of children under five years of age suffer from undernutrition, 50 million children suffer from wasting, and each year nearly 2.4 million children die from causes related to malnutrition.
22% of children under 5 years of age suffer from undernutrition, and each year 45% of deaths among children under 5 years of age are linked to undernutrition.
Why should Americans care?
Investments in nutrition during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life are critically important as it helps children grow up healthy and reach their full potential. These investments pave the way for children to become productive citizens who will help drive growing economies and markets around the globe.
Children suffer life-long consequences from undernutrition, compromising their ability to fight illnesses and learn, diminishing their economic potential, and increasing their risk of adult-onset chronic illnesses.
What more could be done?
An investment of $250 million would sustain current nutrition programs and help meet global targets on breastfeeding and anemia (iron-folic acid supplementation), as well as allowing for increased investment in addressing severe acute malnutrition and stunting.
While 90% of children treated for malnutrition are cured, current funding levels can only reach 33% of children worldwide. Scaling up the U.S. investment in nutrition could expand access to treatment for malnourished children.
For every additional $4.70, a child can benefit from breastfeeding. Scaling up breastfeeding to a near-universal level could save over 800,000 lives per year. Research estimates the global cost of lower cognitive ability associated with not breastfeeding is more than $300 billion each year. For every dollar invested in achieving the breastfeeding target, it is estimated that $35 in economic benefits could be generated.
For every additional $9 invested, a case of anemia can be addressed. In pregnant women, anemia can lead to maternal death and have serious health consequences for infants, including stillbirths, prematurity, and low birth weight. The return on investment in anemia is $12 for every $1 spent.