Advocating for Nutrition, Maternal and Child Health Funding
From left to right: Dorothy Monza (RESULTS), Stephanie Hodges (1,000 Days), Andrew McNamee (Food for the Hungry), John Goetz (Legislative Correspondent for Sen. Tim Scott), Daren Caughron (Bread for the World)
Each year, there is an appropriations process that determines the budget for the federal government and the programs that it carries out. The President releases a budget, which provides insight into an administration’s priority, but ultimately, it is up to Congress to draft and pass the budget for the federal government each fiscal year. 1,000 Days, an initiative of FHI Solutions, raises awareness of this process and engages every year to advocate for robust funding to support and promote maternal, newborn, and child health and nutrition.
In partnership with the Maternal, Newborn, and Child Health Roundtable (MNCH RT), and representing the 1,000 Days Advocacy Working Group (AWG), 1,000 Days led and attended Hill meetings in both the House and Senate to advocate for funding increases for the Maternal and Child Health Account and the Nutrition account within the United States Agency for International Development (USAID). We conducted nearly 40 meetings and secured sign-ons to Dear Colleague letters from Democrats and Republicans in the House and Senate supporting these funding increases.
In FY23, the nutrition account was funded at $160 million, and the maternal and child health account (MCH) was funded at $910 million. To address the malnutrition crisis and to meet the moment of increased health and nutrition needs, our International Non-Governmental Organization (INGO) community is requesting $1.15 billion for the MCH account, which includes $340 million for Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, and $300 million for the nutrition account within USAID.
These additional investments can help close the food and nutrition insecurity gaps and pick up the pace on progress toward ending malnutrition which has slowed over the past 12 years. In 2021, 5 million children under age five died from mainly preventable and treatable diseases, with malnutrition as the underlying cause of roughly half of these deaths. Additionally, 300,000 women die annually of preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth.
The Nutrition account within USAID supports nutrition programs for women and children, focusing on the 1,000-day window, the time between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday. It is crucial to reach children and their caregivers early in life with interventions like breastfeeding support and vitamin A supplementation to prevent malnutrition. When children are malnourished, early detection and access to therapeutic foods can save lives. Severely malnourished children are much more likely to have weakened immune systems and are at risk of permanent physical and mental stunting, which prevents them from reaching their full educational, social, and earning potential. Malnutrition costs the world $3.5 trillion in lost productivity and healthcare costs each year. The current global food crisis, fueled by conflict, climate shocks and the threat of a global recession, continues to threaten the lives of women and children globally. Full funding of the nutrition account is critical for saving lives and reaching USAID’s goal of ending preventable child and maternal deaths.
As Congress establishes budget levels for FY24, we urge them to include the increased funding levels for USAID and we will continue to advocate for these funding increases. If investments are not made in preventing and treating malnutrition and improving maternal and child health, we will continue to see backsliding of the progress made and lives lost. Now is the time to act to ensure mothers and children have the health and nutrition supports they need within the first 1,000 days and beyond.