Historic Commitment from US Government to Fight Severe Malnutrition

“There are many problems in this world that will take decades to solve sustainably. Ending child deaths from wasting is not one of them. This is something we can do now.” – Will Moore, CEO, Eleanor Crook Foundation at the State of Global Food Security and Nutrition event on July 18.

At the State of Global Food Security and Nutrition event hosted July 18, 2022, by the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS), United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and the Eleanor Crook Foundation (ECF), USAID Administrator Samantha Power announced that the United States will provide UNICEF with an additional $200 million to procure and distribute ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTF). The announcement is the most significant commitment that has ever been made to treat wasted children and the largest leap in coverage on record. 

In addition to the $200 million commitment, the Eleanor Crook Foundation, the CRI Foundation and The ELMA Relief Foundation also pledged $50 million to support the effort. Administrator Power announced a goal to match another $250 million from the private sector, high net worth individuals, corporations and other philanthropies with hopes to announce additional funds raised at the U.N. General Assembly in September 2022. 

“Perhaps the most immediate, life saving, humanitarian aid we can provide is assistance to revive severely malnourished children,” said Administrator Power. “Despite the power of (RUTF) in the fight against child wasting, it is drastically underutilized.”

Malnutrition is the greatest threat to child survival worldwide, contributing to more child deaths than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined. Those who do survive severe malnutrition in early childhood are much more likely than their well nourished peers to suffer from physical and mental stunting that affect future educational attainment, health and earning potential. 

RUTF treatment for six weeks can help nearly 90 percent of children suffering from wasting recover.  According to UNICEF, “Reaching virtually every child in need can be achieved with just US$300 million in additional funding.” The $200 million pledge, coupled with the $50 million pledged today by private philanthropies, could equate to 80% of the way toward the UNICEF goal.

However, RUTF is not the only high-impact nutrition intervention ready to be scaled today. Using a modeling tool developed by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, researchers identified four of the most life-saving and cost-effective actions we can take. Known as the Power 4, they include the following: 

  1. Supply all pregnant women with prenatal vitamins;
  2. Support breastfeeding mothers;  
  3. Continue large-scale vitamin A supplementation; and 
  4. Expand coverage of specialized foods (RUTF) for treatment. 

Along with RUTF, the Power 4 have significant potential to reduce child deaths from malnutrition and make up some of the “best buys” in global development. In the United States, just over 1 percent of US global health funding in FY2022 goes to nutrition programming, while AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis collectively net about 76 percent. It is time to increase global nutrition investments and end the preventable child and maternal deaths malnutrition causes. 

As Administrator Power said today, “No child should die from malnutrition when we have the tools to stop it, it’s that simple.” At 1,000 Days, we agree.