Additional nutrition investment of $2.2 billion/year over 10 years could save 2.2 million lives and reduce the number of stunted children by 50 million
Washington, DC – Leading researchers and economists in the fields of nutrition and development have unveiled a groundbreaking analysis outlining what donors, governments, and businesses need to invest to accelerate progress for nutrition. The Investing in Nutrition: The Foundation for Development event hosted by the World Bank, the Results for Development Institute, and 1,000 Days is part of a global effort to increase investment in nutrition, particularly during the 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday.
“An investment in nutrition can help make every other investment in health and development pay off,” said Bill Gates, co-chair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and keynote speaker at the event. “And while progress is possible, it is not inevitable. With the release of today’s analysis by the World Bank and Results for Development, we know there are proven, cost-effective tools to combat malnutrition – such as food fortification and breastfeeding. Investments in these interventions will help ensure millions more children globally have the opportunity to survive and thrive.”
Malnutrition is the underlying cause in nearly half of deaths of children under age five every year. In addition, millions more women and children bear the burden of poor health caused by malnutrition and the global economy loses billions of dollars due to lost productivity and health care costs. Yet these losses are almost entirely preventable. Investing in nutrition gives children the foundation for a healthy, productive life and establishes a foundation for sustainable global progress in health and development. The 2015 Global Nutrition Report indicates that every $1 of investment in nutrition yields $16 in benefits across health and productivity.
“The unconscionably high rates of childhood stunting in middle- and low-income countries—30 and 45 percent – are a damning indictment on us all,” said Jim Yong Kim, President, the World Bank Group. “Stunted growth has life-long consequences not only for the individual, but for countries as well, in an increasingly digitalized and service-oriented economy. Equal opportunity for all is an empty slogan if we don’t address this issue.”
A package of proven, cost-effective actions can be implemented immediately to jump start progress. Investing an additional $2.2 billion per year in nutrition over the next 10 years will help to save an estimated 2.2 million lives and result in 50 million fewer stunted children by 2025, empowering them to grow to their full physical and cognitive potential. To finance these priority actions, together country governments will need to invest on average an additional $1.4 billion per year while donors will need to finance on average an additional $650 million per year on top of current investments. The remaining annual funding needs can be met by innovative financing mechanisms and contributions from households.
“We must come together as a global community and accelerate action on nutrition,” said Akinwumi Adesina, President, the African Development Bank. “Malnutrition limits the growth and potential of children and in turn, limits the growth and potential of countries and economies. When we invest in nutrition, we invest in ‘gray-matter’ infrastructure—that is the infrastructure our children’s bodies and minds need to grow, learn, and thrive. Failing to address malnutrition holds us back and inaction is not acceptable.”
Investments in line with the new framework will drive progress toward achieving four of the six World Health Assembly (WHA) Global Nutrition Targets, specifically those focused on alleviating stunted growth, wasting, and anemia, and increasing exclusive breastfeeding. These targets, endorsed by 194 country governments at the WHA in 2012, were last year enshrined within the second Sustainable Development Goal to end malnutrition in all its forms by the year 2030. With just $3.9 billion currently invested each year to reach the WHA targets, urgent expanded action and investment are needed.
“We must take immediate action on malnutrition, including closing the financial gap. It’s unacceptable that in 2016, an estimated one billion women and girls around the world are malnourished. Without access to good nutritious food, especially for women and children, we are limiting their life outcomes,” said Marie-Claude Bibeau, Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, Canada.
A broader investment of $7 billion per year on top of current funding is needed to right decades of underinvestment in nutrition and achieve the global targets for stunting, anemia, and exclusive breastfeeding, and to mitigate wasting. This investment of $70 billion over the next ten years could yield tremendous returns: 3.7 million child lives saved, at least 65 million fewer stunted children, and 265 million fewer women suffering from anemia by 2025 as compared to 2015.
Global leaders need to put nutrition at the heart of their development agenda and show continued political leadership on nutrition issues. Governments, donors, and businesses will have opportunities to make financial and policy commitments this year, including at the African Leaders for Nutrition event at the African Development Bank’s meeting in Lusaka in May 2016 and at the next Nutrition for Growth Summit.