New bipartisan bill would make big impact on global malnutrition
This week the bipartisan Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act was introduced in the Senate. The legislation (which has a bipartisan companion bill in the House of Representatives) is a positive sign of continued U.S. leadership in global food security and nutrition.
The Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act would take big steps toward reducing malnutrition. It would accomplish this by authorizing the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to advance targeted and evidence-based malnutrition programs, coordinate with international and interagency partners, and integrate nutrition priorities into existing global health and agricultural programs. It would also mandate robust monitoring and oversight of nutrition programs to ensure that U.S. investments are used effectively.
The legislation also emphasizes the importance of increasing the coverage of low-cost, high-impact interventions, sometimes known as the “Power Four.“
When pregnant people receive a full dosage of micronutrient supplements it increases the chances their baby will be born at a healthy weight and survive to their second birthday.
Breastfeeding is the most effective way to protect newborns from malnutrition, infections, and disease. Yet only about 40 percent of children are exclusively breastfed for the recommended 6 months—a rate that has not improved in 20 years. Many women want to breastfeed but do not have access to the information and support needed to be successful. Supporting breastfeeding will make breastmilk, the ideal food for infants, available to more families.
Vitamin A supplementation
When children have two high doses of Vitamin A annually it protects them from blindness, diarrhea, and other fatal illnesses. But the coverage of this cost-effective and life-saving intervention is decreasing for the first time in years. We must ensure that children continue to receive this critical preventative regimen.
Ready-to-use theraputic food (RUTF)
RUTF is an energy-dense product that gives severely malnourished children the nutrients they need to survive. But less than 25 percent of children who need RUTF have access. In an ideal world, we would prevent malnutrition rather than treat it. But we must ensure that in the meantime, those who are malnourished have access to lifesaving treatments like RUTF.
Progress on food insecurity has stagnated since 2014 but reversed drastically in 2020 due to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic. In 2020, nearly one in three people in the world (2.37 billion) did not have access to adequate food.
Young children are particularly vulnerable to negative effects of malnutrition. Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, poor nutrition was the underlying cause of nearly half of all deaths of children under 5. The first 1,000 days of life—from pregnancy to a child's second birthday—is a window of tremendous physical and cognitive development. Adequate calories and micronutrients (like Vitamin A and Iodine) are crucial to help children grow, learn, and thrive.
The prevalence of stunting (low height for a child's age) and child malnutrition is starkly divided along economic lines. In 2020, 22 percent of the world's children under 5 were stunted, with most of them living in low- and lower-middle-income countries. We know what works to make childbirth and childhood safer so children can thrive—now we must ensure all people everywhere can access life-saving interventions.
The world is not on track to to meet the United Nations goal of zero hunger by 2030. But it is not too late to change course—and passing the Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act would be a good start. With less than 10 years left to deliver on global commitments, now is the time for bold action on nutrition.
Stay tuned for updates from RESULTS on how you can take action on this important issue!