Month: December 2018

It’s Time to End the Government Shutdown

For nearly a week the U.S. government has been operating on a partial shutdown due to a breakdown in negotiations between President Trump and Congress. Unfortunately, political grandstanding has become all too common in Washington, DC at the expense of smart policy and effective governing. This is no way to run the country.

Currently, several federal services are impacted by this shutdown, including the departments of Agriculture, Commerce, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, Justice, State and Transportation, and agencies like the Food and Drug Administration. The result is many government services are halted or reduced and hundreds of thousands of federal workers are furloughed or working without pay just as many families are gathering to celebrate the holidays and ring in the New Year.

Women and young children in the United States and around the world depend on the nutrition, health care, housing and other critical services funded by these agencies. 1,000 Days calls on the Trump Administration and Congress to end the political gamesmanship and reopen the federal government. It is our hope and expectation that the new Congress will find ways to work in a bipartisan manner and fund critical government programs that support the health and well-being of young children and their families.

Our Top 10 Wins for Moms and Babies in 2018

So much has happened this year, it can be easy to forget all that we’ve accomplished together. Before we jump into the New Year, let’s remind ourselves of some of the GIANT wins secured in 2018 for moms and their young children – both in the United States and around the world:

  1. We led the fight to hold our leaders accountable when efforts by U.S. officials and the infant formula industry to undermine a U.N. resolution supporting breastfeeding were exposed.
  2. Members of Congress joined 1,000 Days’ efforts in raising awareness about the benefits of breastfeeding. The House and Senate introduced different resolutions both calling for U.S. support of infant nutrition through breastfeeding.
  3. The Departments of Agriculture and Health and Human Services kicked off the process to update the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. For the first time ever, this will include recommendations for pregnant women, infants and children under two. 1,000 Days is working to help ensure that the guidelines are evidence-based and free from industry influence.
  4. The Preventing Maternal Deaths Act (H.R.1318) is now law. This was an important first step to end the maternal mortality crisis facing our nation.
  5. After several years of level funding, the House and Senate Appropriations Committees approved an increase for global nutrition programs through the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID). 1,000 Days led efforts to highlight the tremendous global need and the significant return on nutrition investments. (Unfortunately, the foreign assistance funding bill was among the package of spending bills that did not pass in time. Programs will continue to be funded at the current level until the remaining FY19 spending bills are finalized.)
  6. Congress extended the Global Food Security Act (GFSA) for another 5 years through 2023. This legislation is an important step forward in recognizing that the nutritional status of women and children, especially during the critical 1,000-day window, is essential to building resilience in developing countries. 1,000 Days played a key role in advocating for the nutrition provisions in the legislation and continues to work with USAID to strengthen and expand global nutrition programs.
  7. Congress finally passed a bipartisan Farm Bill that protects the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and includes needed investments in global nutrition. This means better access to nutritious foods for millions of families with young children.
  8. Funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was extended! After hearing loud and clear from families across the country, Congress finally passed needed funding for this program that ensures millions of children can access the doctors, nurses, and specialists they need to thrive.
  9. For the first time in years, Congress passed a full year of funding for the Department of Health and Human Services in September 2018. This includes additional money to improve health care for pregnant women and newborns, including funding to address maternal mortality.

As we look ahead to 2019, 1,000 Days will continue our work to lift up the needs of moms and babies, both here in the United States and around the world. We are currently gearing up to fight for all families to have access to paid leave, for increased investments in nutrition assistance, and for improved healthcare for moms and young children.

We are going to need your help – so donate here! Plus, look for ways you can get involved starting in January in your inbox, on Facebook and on Twitter!

Taking a Closer Look: Breastfeeding in Nigeria

As global health and breastfeeding advocates, we are well versed on the barriers to breastfeeding that women face worldwide and the impact this has on both maternal and child health outcomes. But it was during my recent trip to Nigeria for our Breastfeeding and Social Media Workshop that I had the opportunity to observe first-hand the impactful work of passionate advocates working in-country, fighting to ensure that all babies have the opportunity to not only survive, but to thrive. Nigeria has one of the highest rates of childhood malnutrition in the world – in part because the exclusive breastfeeding rate in Nigeria is just 17%. But there is great energy and work underway by leaders such as Hauwa Abbas of the Silver Lining for the Needy Initiative; Rita Momoh and Dr Luther-King Fasehun of the Wellbeing Foundation; Mavis and Rachel Robinson of the Heal the Youth Foundation; and many others – and I am honored to highlight some of their work.

Meeting Women Where They Are: A Visit to Kpaduma Community
While in Nigeria, I was graciously hosted by Hauwa Abbas, Founder of the Silver Lining for the Needy Initiative (SLNI) to join a community program for pregnant women in the Kpaduma Community in Abuja. In Kpaduma, I was told that most women have between 5 and 7 children and that there are hundreds of pregnant women at any given time. Although this particular community has electricity and access to water, it does not have a healthcare center, and the local public hospital had been on strike for 40 days on account of wage negotiations. This presents enormous obstacles to women’s access to quality maternity healthcare, making programs like SLNI’s essential to maternal and child health outcomes.

The purpose of the day’s event was to ensure all mothers in Kpaduma had a chance to speak with a nurse about what to be aware of during pregnancy and birth, including the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and a breastfeeding demonstration with a volunteer mother and infant from the crowd. Leaders also shared details about the importance of hand washing and vaccinations, and they led songs with the group of women and children attending. Since there is no healthcare center, the program was arranged outdoors at one of Kpaduma’s schools.

As a part of their community programs for pregnant women, SLNI hands out “Mama Kits” for home birthing to the 400 pregnant women in the community. These “Mama Kits” include essentials such as a sterilized blade for cutting the umbilical cord, gauze, cotton balls, sterilizing fluid and a Macintosh mat, which provides a sterile surface for mothers to lay on when giving birth at home. As many mothers do not have the tools for a safe birth, these kits are critically important in reducing maternal and child mortality.

To learn more about the Silver Linings for the Needy Initiative, check out their website and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

Breastfeeding Support for Moms: the MamaCare Program
While staying in Abuja, I also had the opportunity to join Rita Momoh, a midwife who teaches classes on exclusive breastfeeding and handwashing as a part of the MamaCare Program with Wellbeing Foundation Africa (WBFA). Rita teaches 2 classes every weekday morning and does house visits for local families, reaching hundreds to thousands of mothers each month.

I was able to join Rita for an antenatal class at Garki Hospital in Abuja as well as a postnatal class at Lugbe Primary Healthcare Center in a nearby southern village. Her classes were both engaging and informative. She opened with a song about the love of a baby, mother and father, and provided significant detail about proper handwashing and breastfeeding. Rita emphasized the benefits of breastfeeding not only for baby’s health, but for the whole family, noting that breastfeeding has health and economic benefits for moms and dads.

To learn more about the Wellbeing Foundation Africa, check out their website and follow them on Facebook and Instagram.

It was incredibly moving to meet the leaders working in Nigeria to improve health outcomes for moms and babies. After seeing these health workers’ and advocates’ work first hand, I am inspired and energized to continue advocating for better policies and programs that impact communities like these and the women and children where it matters the most.

Farm Bill Statement

On Monday evening, the Farm Bill Conference Committee finished their report reconciling the different bills put forward by the House and Senate earlier this year. 1,000 Days commends the Committee on a balanced and bipartisan compromise authorizing a number of U.S agricultural, conservation, rural development, and nutrition assistance programs for the next 5 years.

Notably, this bill helps secure the food and nutrition needs of millions of Americans, including families with young children. Rejecting politically charged proposals that would have increased food insecurity among low-income families, the final Farm Bill affirms the important role that the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) plays in addressing hunger and poverty. 1,000 Days will continue to work with policymakers and our partners to ensure that federal food and nutrition programs, like SNAP, continue to meet the needs of women and young children.

The Farm Bill also authorizes international food assistance programs, which help millions of people around the world survive hunger and malnutrition. We are pleased that the conference committee retained important provisions from the House and Senate bills that would improve the effectiveness and efficiency of these programs, allowing them to reach more beneficiaries.

Both the Senate and House have passed the report and it awaits the President’s signature.

Additionally, 1,000 Days joined this statement on the Farm Bill’s international food assistance programs.

Global Nutrition Report Illuminates Need for More Resources for Nutrition

This year’s Global Nutrition Report (GNR) highlights that the opportunity to end malnutrition has never been greater. Progress is being observed and where it is not, there is more granular and nuanced data available to understand the challenges facing communities plagued by malnutrition.

Still, global progress is not overshadowing the struggle against malnutrition happening within communities and at the local level. For instance, while global stunting levels are decreasing globally, the absolute number of children that are stunted in Africa is on the rise. Exclusive breastfeeding rates are improving, but still, many newborns are not getting breast milk within the first hour of birth. Anemia rates remain particularly stagnant, especially amongst non-pregnant women as compared to pregnant women.

The nutrition financing conundrum
If we know what’s working and can identify the gaps, then what’s missing? While there is certainly more to learn about how to best address malnutrition, it’s impossible to ignore that even what we know works in the fight against malnutrition is not being funded at scale.

Donors invest less than 1% of development assistance in nutrition-specific interventions or direct investments in nutrition. While donors have met the funding commitment made at the Nutrition for Growth pledging summit in 2013, there is still a significant gap. The GNR assessed that there are early indications that governments in low and middle-income countries are committing more domestic expenditure to nutrition and there has also been an increase in the number and breadth of national nutrition policies and targets. We know it is critical that funding flows towards efforts to realize those goals now.

The opportunity to change course
The world cannot afford for progress in the fight against malnutrition to plateau or diminish. With significant donor pledges from Nutrition for Growth 2013 set to expire in 2020, there is an opportunity for the international community to work together and ensure that progress against malnutrition not only stays on track but is accelerated. The Government of Japan has announced that it will host a Nutrition for Growth event in Tokyo in 2020 and while planning is just getting underway, there are high hopes that this moment will raise awareness and spur increased investments in nutrition.

Here’s how policymakers can make a difference:

Recommit to nutrition as a pillar of global development that requires focused resources. 2020 marks a decade until the proposed achievement of the Sustainable Development Goals. Nutrition is a prerequisite investment to the successful achievement of all 17 of the Sustainable Development Goals (the 2017 GNR highlighted this!). Without significant investments in nutrition, all development goals are at risk of being undermined – stalling progress and threatening global health and resilience in the face of humanitarian crises. A high-level convening of all stakeholders including donors, country governments, philanthropic organizations, civil society, and the private sector is an opportunity to recommit to nutrition at this pivotal moment and generate new resources.

Build a foundation for the next decade of progress by investing in nutrition-specific investments. The fundamentals of good nutrition are still not being funded in accordance with the need. These include evidence-based, nutrition-specific interventions that can be brought to scale like micronutrient supplementals, promotion of breastfeeding and nutritious complementary feeding, and treatment of severe acute malnutrition.

Address the underlying causes of malnutrition with integrated, multi-sectoral programming that supports the overall health and well-being of families and communities, including access to water, sanitation and hygiene, and nutritious foods that account for the specific needs of adolescent girls and women. A research agenda and policy roadmap for investing in multi-sectoral programming to improve nutrition is urgently required to save lives and observe more rapid results. National country plans seek to tackle malnutrition with a multi-sectoral approach, but sufficient budget allocations remain a missing piece of the puzzle.

Hold all stakeholders accountable for current commitments. 2020 is an opportunity to celebrate progress and assess what is working and not working in the fight against malnutrition. Existing commitments must be met with integrity and transparency, and a more ambitious agenda should be set to meet globally agreed targets that leave no one behind.

5 Things You Need to Know About Breastfeeding and HIV

Globally, over 36 million people are living with HIV and almost 2 million of these cases are children under the age of 15. Although far too many people are living with HIV globally, there has been remarkable progress in reducing new infections – particularly in preventing mother-to-child transmission. Between 2010 and 2017, the number of new infections among children under 5 declined by 35 percent and AIDS-related deaths among young children declined by nearly half.

Despite this noteworthy progress, there are still misconceptions about a woman’s ability to breastfeed if she is HIV positive. Mothers who are on consistent antiretroviral treatment (ARV) throughout the breastfeeding period have an extremely low risk of transmitting HIV to their babies. Supporting an HIV-positive woman’s ability to breastfeed through ARV treatment and lactation counseling gives children the lifesaving benefits of breastmilk. It also dually improves the woman’s own health by conferring the maternal health benefits of breastfeeding (such as reduced risk of certain cancers) and improving her health through ARV treatment. By strengthening support for HIV treatment and breastfeeding, we can improve survival and health for both mothers and children.

Note: The facts below are based on the recently published “Breastfeeding and HIV” Advocacy Brief. For more resources, check out the Global Breastfeeding Collective, led by UNICEF and WHO.

Here are 5 things you need to know about breastfeeding and HIV:

  1. Breastfeeding is the safest, most nutritious option for babies.
    Breastmilk is always the right temperature, requires no preparation and is readily available even in settings with limited access to clean water and adequate hygiene. Breastfeeding promotes cognitive development and acts as a child’s first vaccine, giving babies everywhere a critical boost.
  2. Breastfeeding is a life-saving intervention.
    Breastmilk contains antibodies and other components that protect children against deadly infections. In some contexts, when there may be limited or no access to clean water and hygienic conditions, breastfeeding can drastically reduce the risk of diarrhea and other deadly diseases.
  3. Breastfeeding mothers need (even more!) support when following an HIV treatment regimen alongside breastfeeding safely.
    With adequate support from their families, communities, health workers and society, almost all mothers can breastfeed, even in the harshest contexts. Support for breastfeeding must be free from commercial influences and must include counseling provided within health facilities and at the community level to guide mothers through breastfeeding with HIV safely.
  4. HIV testing, treatment and support should be provided as part of the care women receive before, during and after pregnancy.
    This support should be provided confidentially and without judgement. It should also be affordable and accessible for all families.
  5. Preventing mother-to-child transmission of HIV is a public health priority.
    Adequate services and support can help women protect themselves from being infected with HIV before and during pregnancy and throughout the breastfeeding period.

The life-saving protection of breastfeeding is critical to children surviving and thriving around the world. Particularly in settings where malnutrition is widespread, breastfeeding guarantees a safe, nutritious and accessible food source for infants and young children and a protective shield against death and disease. But breastfeeding requires immense support from families, communities and societies, and by strengthening support for the treatment of HIV and breastfeeding, we can improve survival and health for both mothers and children globally.