Nutrition programs focus on evidence-based interventions that are foundational to a child’s life. They prevent and treat stunting, wasting (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 supports technical assistance to introduce and increase nutrition activities in priority countries, including nutrition education and delivery of services such as micronutrient supplementation and community management of acute malnutrition. Nutrition programs also address nutritional deficiencies and support services to provide nutrition supplements for pregnant women.
Why is it important?
In 2019, USAID reached 27.2 million children with high-impact, often life-saving, nutrition interventions. Between 2000 and 2019, the number of stunted children under five years of age declined from 198 million to 144 million.
Children who receive optimal nutrition in their first 1,000 days of life are 10 times more likely to overcome life-threatening childhood diseases such as malaria. 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.
Breastfeeding serves as a child’s first immunization to disease. Currently, only 42.2% of infants under six months are being exclusively breastfed.
Leading economists consistently rank nutrition as among the most cost-effective way to save and improve lives around the world.
Every $1 invested in nutrition yields up to $35 in economic returns and improved economic activity. More nourished communities support national economic growth.
Worldwide anemia affects half a billion women of reproductive age, impairing their health and economic productivity. In pregnant women, anemia can lead to death and can have serious consequences for infants including stillbirth, prematurity, and low birth weight.
22% of children under five years of age suffer from undernutrition; 50 million children suffer from wasting; and annually nearly 2.4 million children die, totaling 45% of all deaths among children under 5 years of age.
Why should Americans care?
Investments in nutrition during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life are critically important in helping children grow up healthy and reach their full potential. These investments pave the way for children to become productive citizens who will 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.
As a result of COVID-19, approximately 9.3 million children under the age of five could suffer from wasting, 80% of whom are from sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia.
Based on previous models of similar pandemics and epidemics, acute child malnutrition may increase by 50% for children living in poverty as a result of COVID-19.
Due to COVID-19, UNICEF estimates a 30% overall reduction in essential nutrition services coverage, reaching 75–100% in lockdown contexts.
What more could be done?
An investment of $250 million would sustain current nutrition programs and help meet global targets on breastfeeding and anemia, as well as allowing for increased investment in addressing severe acute malnutrition and stunting.
An additional $5.7 billion is required to meet the World Health Assembly target to increase the percentage of children under six months of age who are exclusively breastfed to at least 50% by 2025.
Research estimates the global cost of lower cognitive ability associated with not breastfeeding is more than $300 billion each year.
While 90% of children treated for malnutrition are cured, current funding levels can only reach 20% of affected children worldwide. Scaling up U.S. investment in life-saving services could allow for better nutrition integration and mainstreaming within national health systems, generate substantial health gains, and create more resilient societies.
For every additional $9 invested, a case of anemia can be addressed. The return on investment in nutrition is $18 for every $1 spent.
Funding levels may not accurately reflect those in the appropriations bills and/or reports due to rounding.