House passed bipartisan malnutrition bill—now onto the Senate!
Dorothy Monza, Senior Associate, Nutrition & Child Health
For months, we have been asking our members of Congress to co-sponsor the Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act. And our advocacy is paying off! After receiving more than 100 bipartisan co-sponsors, the House of Representatives passed the bill last week 384-44.
Currently, malnutrition is the underlying cause of half of all preventable deaths of children under five. This is a disgrace, especially when we have the tools and the ability to prevent and treat malnutrition. We know what works because we’ve done it in high-income countries. Now, we need to ensure that effective and evidence-based malnutrition treatment is accessible to all children.
This bill will ensure U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) nutrition programs are more coordinated, effective, and accountable to our existing global nutrition efforts. This would ensure that we are maximizing U.S. investments and directing nutrition funding to the programs that save the most lives.
This bill would also require USAID to report to Congress on progress toward clear and defined benchmarks and goals. One of our first tools in the fight against malnutrition is information. We need more data so we can make sure our strategy works. Then we can tailor our approach to reach more children and their families with lifesaving and life-sustaining care.
Young children are particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of malnutrition. The first 1,000 days—from pregnancy to a child’s second birthday—is a window of tremendous development. To grow, learn, and thrive, kids need enough calories and the right micronutrients (like Vitamin A and iodine). USAID programs that focus on pregnant people and young children are necessary because regular food assistance or agricultural aid might not meet their unique nutritional needs.
The Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act instructs USAID to scale up four essential actions (“The Power 4”) that will help prevent children from dying of severe malnutrition. These include supplying all pregnant people with prenatal vitamins, supporting breastfeeding, continuing large-scale vitamin A supplementation, and expanding coverage of specialized foods for treatment of severe malnutrition.
But we know policy and oversight are not enough to meet the vast global need. RESULTS advocates are also calling on Congress to double USAID nutrition funding from $150 million to $300 million. Prices of food, fuel, and fertilizer are at record highs globally. We must invest more in nutrition and be more targeted with those investments.
This is a promising signal of U.S. commitment to ending preventable child deaths caused by malnutrition. But our work is not done—we also need to make sure this bill passes in the Senate!
The Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act (S.2956/H.R.4693) is led by Representatives Gregory Meeks (D-NY), Michael McCaul (R-TX), Chrissy Houlahan (D-PA) and Young Kim (R-CA) in the House, along with Senators Christopher Coons (D-DE), Roger Wicker (R-MS), Tim Kaine (D-VA) and John Boozman (R-AR) in the Senate.