Number 7, October 2009
New Hope for Malnourished
Mothers and Children
by Eric Muñoz
Just 36 Countries Account for 90 Percent of the World’s Stunted Children
n No data
n 20 – 29.9%
n 30 – 39.9%
Source: The Lancet.
• The scope of malnutrition is staggering. Women and young children are the
hardest hit. In many countries child malnutrition rates are steadily rising.
• For children suffering malnutrition the effects will be long-term, even intergenerational. Malnutrition impairs physical growth and cognitive development.
• In countries with high levels of childhood malnutrition, the economic loss
can be as high as 2-3 percent of GDP.
• New evidence shows that interventions to prevent and treat malnutrition of
women and children from conception through the first two years of life can
save millions of lives and ensure that children grow up to be healthy, strong,
• As the United States embarks on a new global food security initiative, nutrition must be a central component. Evidence-based nutrition interventions
must be scaled up and nutrition must be integrated into programs to improve agriculture and food security.
Eric Muñoz is a policy analyst for Bread for the World Institute.
Bread for the World Institute provides
policy analysis on hunger and strategies
to end it. The Institute educates its advocacy network, opinion leaders, policy
makers and the public about hunger in
the United States and abroad.
Many developing countries have
had success in reducing malnutrition. But malnutrition remains
pervasive and, in many countries,
comes at a very high cost. Each year,
millions of children die from malnutrition; millions more suffer ill
health and face long-term physical
and cognitive impairment, leading
to lost productivity. The period between conception and the first two
years in a child’s life are critical. The
Obama administration’s initiative
to fight hunger offers an opportunity to improve nutrition of mothers
and children around the world. In
addition to the focus on increasing
agricultural productivity and raising rural incomes, the administration should scale up nutrition interventions and integrate nutrition
into its development programming.
It should use improvements in maternal and child nutrition as a key
indicator of success. It should support country-led strategies, coordinate with other donors and ensure
that U.S. actions and policies do not
undermine nutrition objectives.