NEW YORK (Sept. 21, 2010) - Millions of children’s lives could be saved as a result of the long-awaited global focus on nutrition announced today, Save the Children said.
Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin hosted an event Tuesday where United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon unveiled the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Roadmap. More than 100 national governments, donors, businesses, and development agencies have endorsed the plan to dramatically improve early childhood nutrition in poor countries.
“Investing in early childhood nutrition is a surefire strategy. The returns are incredibly high,” said Anne M. Mulcahy, Chairman of the Board of Trustees of Save the Children.
Mulcahy, who led Xerox’s dramatic turnaround while its CEO and Chairman, attended Tuesday’s event.
“Almost 2.7 million children die each year because they’re malnourished, but improving nutrition is not rocket science. Something as simple as better breastfeeding could save a million children a year,” Mulcahy said.
“Investing in nutrition will fuel global productivity. It’s clear the world economy can no longer afford the losses tied to chronic malnutrition,” she said.
Three of every 10 children in the developing world suffer from chronic malnutrition – meaning their bodies and minds will likely never reach their full potential.
“It’s time to end this huge loss, not only for these children – but for all of us. Educated and productive young people are needed to help lift their countries out of poverty and create a wealthier, more secure world,” Mulcahy said.
Malnutrition is the underlying cause of death for one third of the 8.1 million children under 5 who die each year. The single most effective health intervention to save children’s lives is exclusive breastfeeding. According to research published in the Lancet medical journal, it could prevent 13 percent of all child deaths.
Exclusive breastfeeding for six months builds a baby’s immunity to the leading killer of children-pneumonia-and protects them from them from the second biggest killer-diarrhea-often caused by unsafe water used to mix formula. Other interventions proven to help children grow, develop and survive include Vitamin A supplementation, fortifying staple foods with iron and treating severe acute malnutrition.
“No one should underestimate the importance of good nutrition in the 1,000 days from conception through two years of age,” Mulcahy said. “We know that’s the critical window to save lives and prevent permanent damage to children.”
At today’s event, “1,000 Days: Change a Life, Change the Future” Clinton and Martin launched the ThousandDays.org website to focus energy on the importance of nutrition in the first 1,000 days. Save the Children urges all to join in this movement and sign the support statement at: www.ThousandDays.org/act.
Tuesday’s event was timed to coincide with the U.N. summit on the Millennium Development Goals, which aim to significantly reduce global poverty by 2015.
“We’ll never achieve the Millennium Development Goals on reducing child morality and hunger without a much heavier focus on nutrition. It’s heartening that Secretary Clinton and other world leaders get it. This could mark a major turning point for children. It’s now up to world leaders to go back to their capitals and follow through.” Mulcahy said.
Save the Children is the leading, independent organization that creates lasting change for children in need in the United States and 120 countries around the world.
* * *