Every day, two billion people in the world do not consume enough nutrients to live healthy, productive lives. As the head of the Bureau for Food Security at USAID, the magnitude of this number – two billion – is why I am so serious about my work. As a father, another number resonates with me: 200 million. That is the number of kids who suffer from chronic undernutrition worldwide. This is a serious issue that contributes to chronic hunger, poverty, and susceptibility to disease.
That’s where my work – and that of my colleagues from across the U.S. government, private sector, civil society, and host-country governments — comes in. Building on decades of support for development programs, the U.S. is strengthening partnerships and integrating its global nutrition and agriculture investments like never before. Nutrition is the defining link between the U.S. Feed the Future and Global Health initiatives, which aim to reduce undernutrition through integrated investments in health, agriculture, and social protection.
There are countless reasons why this is important: Good nutrition can be a critical driver for economic growth and poverty reduction. Nutrition programs can empower women and girls by increasing their access to assets and education. By linking our agriculture and nutrition programs, we contribute to healthier, more productive and resilient communities by ensuring better access to better quality food, which increases the quality and diversity of diets. Our efforts also improve accessibility to water and sanitation and health systems, and support better nutritional practices in the household.
I was honored to participate today in a panel focused on the critical 1,000 day window between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday at a panel discussion during Bread for the World’s 2011 National Gathering conference. Children suffering from undernutrition in this period face physical stunting and mental impairment that cannot be reversed, so later in life they suffer poorer performance in school and lower incomes. That’s not something I take lightly; nor does the U.S. government. We are strategically focusing our nutrition efforts on this 1,000 day window to help ensure that pregnant mothers and their children are afforded a better, healthier, more prosperous and happy future.
I want that for my own daughter, and for those 200 million kids, too.
We need to work together, pushing for innovative and creative solutions to undernutrition and food insecurity. I look forward to meeting next week with some of the brightest minds in agriculture and food security at the Feed the Future Research Forum in Washington, D.C., as we collaborate to do just that. In the weeks and months ahead, together, we can make an impact in the fight against hunger and poverty – and in the lives of millions of people across the globe.