Tag: foreign assistance

ICAN Strategy Meetings Pave the Road Ahead

The International Coalition for Advocacy on Nutrition (ICAN) met last week in London to develop an advocacy strategy for the year ahead.

The coalition is comprised of organizations working to improve policies and scale-up investments in nutrition globally. ICAN grew out of collaborative efforts in the lead-up to Nutrition for Growth 2013 in London and since then, the coalition has grown significantly, now representing over 40 organizations from 15 different countries.

Given the significant funding gap globally for nutrition, ICAN has focused on mobilizing new resources for nutrition. The World Bank estimates that an additional $7 billion is needed each year to close the funding gap for 4 of the 6 World Health Assembly targets. Importantly, this amount is even higher when considering that an enabling an environment for good nutrition is also needed, including WASH, gender empowerment and production of healthy foods. Although it will take more than just money, additional funding remains critical to ending hunger and malnutrition.

In addition to new resources, ICAN also advocates for better use of existing resources for global nutrition. By ensuring that donors and governments use funding wisely, ICAN members help ensure that programming efficiently reaches the communities that need it most.

Government Donors

A top priority of ICAN has been, and remains, engaging the world’s biggest donors, primarily the G7 countries, to mobilize new and better resources for nutrition. By advocating during government budget cycles and pressuring world leaders to pledge at key global moments, ICAN members have kept the focus on investing in nutrition.

As recognized during last week’s strategy discussion, this work takes place in a difficult context. In recent years, there has been a decline in foreign assistance or overseas development assistance (ODA). Donors are spending less than 1% of ODA on high-impact nutrition interventions that build the foundation for a healthy, prosperous life.

In a difficult political and fiscal environment, the focus of many governments are immediate crises and domestic issues, often at the expense of foreign assistance. However, foreign assistance is equally an important tool for economic growth and global stability. During strategy discussions, it was clear that ICAN members are as dedicated as ever to advocating to donors to improve foreign assistance for nutrition, even in challenging times.

Holding donors accountable for the commitments that they have made to improve the lives of women and children through better nutrition is a key piece of ICAN’s strategy in 2018. G7 countries committed in 2015 to lift 500 million people out of hunger and malnutrition, and yet little has been done to advance that promise. In fact, hunger and malnutrition is on the rise globally, signaling that much more advocacy and pressure is still needed.

The World Bank

The World Bank has shown significant leadership for nutrition over the past few years with President Jim Yong Kim championing the issue, calling on countries to invest more in human capital, including investments in nutrition.

Good nutrition is critical to cognitive development and in turn, can have a significant impact on an individual’s earning potential and in turn, a nation’s economic growth. Between 2018 – 2020, the Bank has identified at least $1.7 billion for nutrition through International Development Association (IDA) loans and grants.

ICAN has worked closely with the Bank to maximize and increase these resources. The World Bank Annual and Spring meetings, for example, have provided an opportunity for civil society to highlight nutrition as a human capital investment and call on Finance Ministers to invest in national nutrition plans.

This will continue to be an important advocacy venue and ICAN members strategized on ways to improve its advocacy to ensure that the Bank is a driving force for improved nutrition for years to come. Relatedly, ICAN is exploring how innovative financing mechanisms like the Global Financing Facility (GFF) and the Power of Nutrition, can be used to leverage more and existing funding for nutrition.

Innovation & Creativity

At the ICAN meeting, the coalition was challenged by a provocative presentation from Danny Sriskandarajah, Secretary General of CIVICUS and Member of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Lead Group. He reiterated that advocates need to think and operate differently to achieve the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030.

ICAN is continuously striving to improve its way of working together and rise to the challenge of the SDGs. At this year’s coalition meeting, the coalition was joined by five members of SUN civil society alliances – advocates from Guatemala, Myanmar, Kenya, Senegal and the Philippines – that are building political will in their countries to improve nutrition.

ICAN partner organizations have a role to play in supporting country advocates and ensuring that country success stories and challenges are being brought to global attention. Coordinating this effort is not always easy but it is extremely necessary to promote country-led efforts to increase funding and improve policies for nutrition.

The Road Ahead

ICAN is reinvigorated to collaborate on these efforts and more in 2018, with an eye keenly focused on the horizon and the potential for a global pledging summit in 2020. In December, Japan announced its commitment to host a nutrition summit alongside the Tokyo Olympics.

While this is still two years away, the foundation is being laid now to work with the Japanese government, build momentum amongst world leaders and unite around a common vision. Together, with the collective voices of over 40 organizations, ICAN is a powerful voice in the nutrition space with an ambitious agenda ahead.

We Need Action And Investment For Moms And Babies Everywhere

At 1,000 Days we know investing in a child’s first 1,000 days sets the foundation for all the days that follow – enabling children to grow, learn and thrive, and nations to prosper. Yet last night President Trump said very little about investing in young children and their families during his State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress and the American public.

Today, as Congressional leaders gather to plan their agenda for the year ahead, we urge them and the Administration to prioritize the health and well-being of women, infants and young children in the United States and around the world. This includes ensuring:

  • Women and children have access to comprehensive and quality health care;
  • Young children and their families have access to affordable and nutritious foods;
  • Parents and caregivers have the support they need to give their children the strongest start to life, including through breastfeeding support and paid family leave; and
  • U.S. foreign assistance is invested in proven programs that enable all children and their families to thrive.

At 1,000 Days we remain committed to the belief that all children—regardless of where they are born—deserve the opportunity to reach their full potential. Achieving this vision will require smart investments and joint action; we hope to work with Congress and the Administration to move these priorities forward in the year ahead.

Statement on Senate Appropriations Committee’s Passage of State and Foreign Operations Bill

1,000 Days applauds Senate appropriators for their strong, bipartisan support of maternal and child nutrition programs in the Fiscal Year 2018 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. As in the House, the Senate legislation maintains the current funding level of $125 million for nutrition in the Global Health Programs account. Funding from this account supports vital services to improve maternal diets; enhance nutrition during pregnancy; promote breastfeeding; and improve infant and young child feeding practices. These and other activities are foundational to the achievement of broader development goals. The bill, which passed unanimously, also includes report language referencing the need for critical nutrition programs that address malnutrition and micronutrient deficiencies.

1,000 Days appreciates the bipartisan leadership exhibited by the committee in rejecting the Administration’s proposed deep cuts to global health and development programs more broadly. The funding levels contained in the bill signify Congress’ recognition of the critical importance of continued U.S. leadership in support of these vital programs. During the markup, Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Chairman of the State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Subcommittee stated, “Now is not the time for retreat; now is the time to double down on diplomacy and development. The bill provides vital security, economic, development, health and humanitarian assistance that makes all Americans safer at home.” Similarly, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Ranking Member of the Subcommittee said, “This bill repudiates the President’s reckless budget request, and I commend Chairman Graham for reaffirming the primacy of the Congress in appropriating funds.

It is imperative that the full range of nutrition investments are protected and brought to scale so that we can see the tremendous returns possible when contributions from all sources – including the United States – are increased for high-impact interventions: 3.7 million child lives saved, 65 million fewer stunted children, and 265 million fewer women suffering from anemia. Importantly, improved nutritional outcomes require a multi-sectoral response and robust funding across global health, development and humanitarian accounts, as well as sufficient resources to maintain strong technical capacity at USAID and other agencies.

The right nutrition in the 1,000 day window between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday is an investment in ensuring children can reach their full potential and countries can reach their broader economic development goals. We are grateful to the committee for their leadership and to all Members who have championed greater progress against malnutrition. 1,000 Days looks forward to working with them to ensure sustained and greater gains moving forward.

Statement on House Appropriations Committee’s Passage of State and Foreign Operations Bill

1,000 Days is grateful to House appropriators for their support of maternal and child nutrition in the Fiscal Year 2018 State and Foreign Operations Appropriations bill. The legislation maintains level funding –$125 million – for nutrition in the Global Health Programs account. We appreciate the committee’s support for “effective nutrition interventions to reduce stunting, increase breastfeeding, promote early childhood development, and treat severe malnutrition”, as noted in the accompanying report.

Funding from the nutrition sub-account supports vital services to improve maternal diets; enhance nutrition during pregnancy; promote breastfeeding; and improve infant and young child feeding practices. These and other activities are essential to the goals outlined in the House report.

However, while we appreciate the House bill’s rejection of the Administration’s proposed deep cuts and eliminations to vital programs, and though we recognize the allocation provided the committee was lower than in recent years, we are concerned by the $10 billion cut to the FY18 international affairs topline as compared to the current level. Improved nutritional outcomes require a multi-sectoral response and robust funding across global health, development and humanitarian accounts, as well as sufficient resources to maintain strong technical capacity at USAID and other agencies.

For this reason, it is imperative that the full range of investments are protected and brought to scale so that we can see the tremendous returns possible when contributions from all sources – including the United States – are increased for high-impact interventions: 3.7 million child lives saved, 65 million fewer stunted children, and 265 million fewer women suffering from anemia.

The right nutrition in the first 1,000 days is an investment in ensuring children can reach their full potential and countries can reach their broader economic development goals. We appreciate the committee’s leadership and all Members who have championed greater progress against malnutrition. 1,000 Days looks forward to working with them and their Senate counterparts to ensure sustained and greater gains moving forward.

Roger Thurow Testifies: How The Effects of Famine Stretch Far Further Than Hunger

Roger Thurow, a friend of and champion for 1,000 Days, recently testified before the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations on the individual, societal and economic costs of malnutrition and famine. Watch the hearing or read his written testimony below.

Thank you, Chairman Smith, Ranking Member Bass, and distinguished Members of the Committee for inviting me to testify today on this this very important and very timely topic. Thank you for your steadfast support of agricultural development efforts, and for raising the clamor about famine in your resolution. And thank you for this opportunity to testify about the causes and consequences of famine. That this medieval suffering continues now into the second decade of the 21st century is, I believe, the biggest stain on the world’s conscience.

I have witnessed famine and hunger crises, unfortunately, many times in my four decades as a journalist—first as a foreign correspondent with The Wall Street Journal and now as a senior fellow for the Chicago Council on Global Affairs and author of three books on hunger and malnutrition in the 21st Century.

My first travels in the hunger zones of Africa came during the Ethiopian famine of 2003, when 14 million people were on the doorstep of starvation. It was the first great hunger catastrophe of our grand new Millennium. On my first day in Addis Ababa, the capital, I met with World Food Programme workers who were scrambling to provide relief as the hunger spread. One of them gave me this piece of advice, which to me sounded like an ominous warning: “Looking into the eyes of someone dying of hunger becomes a disease of the soul. For what you see is that nobody should have to die of hunger.”

Certainly, not now, not in the 21st century when so many scientific and technological achievements are literally at our finger tips. The next day, I stepped into an emergency feeding tent filled with dozens of starving children and their parents—and I looked into their empty, lifeless eyes. What I saw did indeed infect my soul, like a disease. In addition to the immense human suffering, I saw resignation and defeat of the farmers who had lost everything. I saw families on the move—abandoning homes and hope. I saw communities shattered, an entire generation, the children, vanishing in their parents’ arms. From the women, I saw that the deepest form of misery was to be a mother unable to stop the crying of a hungry child.

For me, it was impossible to see and not act. Thus, as a journalist, an author and senior fellow at the Council I continue to write and write and write about hunger and malnutrition. I believe that those of you who recently traveled to South Sudan and Uganda also looked into the eyes of the hungry. And thus, with similarly diseased souls, I imagine you too feel compelled to act about hunger and malnutrition.

What propels my writing—and, I’m sure, your action—is the firm conviction that things don’t have to be this way. Yes, droughts will occur. Conflicts will rage. Corruption will complicate relief efforts. But starvation and famine can be avoided. Timely humanitarian response with food aid, and water, and shelter, and medical assistance, is absolutely necessary to reduce the suffering and save lives. I’ve seen it happen, heroically, with American leadership.

Emergency responses and food aid are crucial action now, but it alone won’t prevent the next famine. This we must acknowledge and remember. The next famine will only be prevented by long-term agricultural development investments—the investments that give farmers, particularly small-scale farmers, and their families resiliency against climate and economic shocks, that provide food security, that reduce conflict, that promote economic prosperity, that spread hope of better futures. The kind of investments we’ve seen under Feed the Future, made possible by the Global Food Security Act—which the Chairman staunchly championed and continues to do. Thanks to the long arc of American leadership in the post-World War II era, progress has been made on reducing hunger and malnutrition and stunting—and the 114th Congress can now add its name to that long and storied list after passing the global food security act. Now is not time to retreat. Exactly seventy years ago this month, with hunger looming in Europe after the war, the Marshall Plan was launched and now the EU is our largest trading partner. Today, famine and hunger on a scale rarely seen in Africa and the Middle East call us to act.

We know these investments in agricultural development work. The programs that have been in play on the ground in Ethiopia since the 2003 famine have created a resiliency that has the country better prepared to combat the current drought, better than its neighbors. According to new USAID evidence, Ethiopian households reached by US agricultural development programs were far more resilient than their neighbors, both within Ethiopia and in surrounding countries, to maintain their food security in the face of an historic drought.

I have seen the benefits of agricultural development investments myself. In my books, I have followed farmers and their families over time. As harvests improve, as surpluses grow, the hunger season wanes. Malnutrition disappears. Children stay in school longer—I have seen families celebrate high school and even college graduations because of increased prosperity from agricultural advancement. The farmers become more entrepreneurial, eagerly expanding their operations to feed not only their own families but their communities and their countries as well. They no longer strive merely to survive, but to robustly thrive.

Ending hunger wherever it may be is certainly the right thing to do—and that should motivate us all. We’re told by the World Food Programme that today about 5.4 million children are dangerously malnourished and more than one million are at risk of starvation during the current famines raging in Africa and the Middle East, and that without sufficient and timely relief, up to 600,000 children are at imminent risk of death in the coming months. That’s shocking and unconscionable.

Doing what we can to prevent those deaths and end that suffering is also the smart thing to do. For famine isn’t just something that happens “over there” somewhere. Famine impacts all of us. The economic ripples of hunger and malnutrition are powerful and long-lasting—they roll over time and space. Even though a famine may end, the costs continue to accumulate. The most pernicious impact of any hunger crisis—along with the lives lost—is what becomes of those who survive.

The impact is greatest on women and children, particularly in the first 1,000 days—the time from the beginning of a mother’s pregnancy to the second birthday of her child. Any lack of food, any bout of malnutrition, often leads to stunting—physically and cognitively. Stunting is a life sentence of underachievement and underperformance. Currently, in our world today, one in every four children under the age of five is stunted. One in four children. Think about that.

The toll on the individual, the family, the community are profound in the loss of education and labor productivity over time—for a stunted child becomes a stunted adult. Collectively, the problem weakens our trading partners, limits global opportunities. Childhood malnutrition and stunting can cost individual countries 8-10-12% of their annual GDP according to the World Bank. The World Bank also estimates the costs to the global economy at $3.5 trillion annually in lost productivity, higher health care costs, and lessened trade—that is “trillion” with a “T.”

Those are big numbers. But perhaps the greatest cost of childhood malnutrition and stunting are immeasurable: A poem not written. A gadget not invented. A horizon not explored. An idea not formed. An innovation not nurtured. A cure not discovered. What might a child have contributed to the world if he or she hadn’t been stunted? You see, a stunted child anywhere becomes a stunted child everywhere.

In closing, I’ll return briefly to Ethiopia. During the 2003 famine, the first eyes of a starving child I looked into belonged to a 5-year-old boy named Hagirso. He had withered away to skin and bones, the doctors and nurses worried that he might not survive. What I saw that day continued to haunt me. I often wondered whatever happened to Hagirso? Ten years later I returned to the scene of that awful famine. I was delighted to find that Hagirso had survived. But he clearly wasn’t thriving—he was severely stunted, physically and cognitively. At 15 years old, he only came up to the bottom of my rib cage. And he had just begun attending first grade classes, learning the alphabet.

For me, he is the embodiment of what is at stake when we allow famines to continue. What might this child have accomplished were he not stunted? A lost chance at greatness for one child is a lost chance for us all.

That is what compels us to act today. The American imperative to lead the way to the end of hunger and malnutrition and stunting abides, stronger than ever.

Trump’s Budget Cuts Will Harm Young Children and Families

At 1,000 Days, we believe that children are the foundation of a country’s greatness. When young children thrive, so do nations. It is why we are deeply concerned by the Trump Administration’s proposal to slash funding for basic nutrition, health and anti-poverty programs that give children here in the U.S. and around the world a strong start to life. By cutting vital domestic safety net programs and foreign assistance, the Trump Administration will not only weaken America’s foundation, it will also put vulnerable children and their families in harm’s way.

It is troubling to see that the President’s budget takes aim at programs that many hardworking American families of young children rely on to make ends meet: the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (commonly known as food stamps or SNAP), the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). 1,000 Days is particularly concerned about cuts to SNAP because nearly HALF of families that participate in the program include at least one child under age 5. It is unconscionable that the Trump Administration would propose massive cuts to SNAP when nearly 1/3 of preschoolers in the U.S. rely on the program each month for their nutritional needs. We are also deeply troubled by the proposal to slash funding for Medicaid and CHIP which together serve the health care needs of almost HALF of all children under the age of 6 in the U.S. These programs are vital to ensuring that all kids in America have the opportunity to reach their full potential.

By proposing deep cuts to foreign assistance, the President’s budget will also hurt young children in some of the poorest countries throughout the world. Each year nearly 3 million children under age 5 die from malnutrition—a condition that is almost entirely preventable. The U.S. has been a leader in the fight against global malnutrition and America’s investments in life-saving programs to improve maternal and young child nutrition costs a fraction of a penny of every dollar spent by the U.S. government. There is little question that eliminating or scaling down U.S. global health, development and humanitarian efforts will cost lives and reverse more than a decade of progress against poverty and disease. These devastating cuts come at a time in which the world is facing severe famines and other humanitarian crises and when over 1 million children are at risk of dying from starvation.

The President’s budget proposal is not only mean-spirited, it is also short-sighted. It will fail to balance the federal budget and will actually cost more money in the long run as taxpayers contend with the sickness and suffering that cutting vital health and nutrition programs will create.

Americans deserve better than a federal budget that puts the health and well-being of young children and their families at risk. Congress must reject the President’s proposal and start over to build a budget that is worthy of our children and our true greatness as a nation.