Did you know that the first 1,000 days from conception to age two of a child’s life are critical in child survival and promoting a healthy life overall? Sadly, many children around the world suffer from malnutrition. The number is appalling and tragic as malnutrition is preventable yet today 7,000 young children continue to die from it.
Following are the heartbreaking hunger statistics from the UN World Food Programme:
- 842 million people in the world do not have enough to eat. This number has fallen by 17 percent since 1990.
- Poor nutrition causes nearly half (45%) of deaths in children under five – 3.1 million children each year.
- One out of six children — roughly 100 million — in developing countries is underweight.
- One in four of the world’s children are stunted. In developing countries the proportion can rise to one in three.
Here in the United States were obesity is become an epidemic, many children continue to be malnourished and eat unhealthy, highly processed foods. Why? Because sadly these are the foods that are cheap and affordable especially to families living in poverty.
Buying healthy foods is quite expensive. Fruit and vegetables cost way more than a bag of potato chips or processed crackers and cookies. Good quality meat is expensive as well. For me, feeding a family of four a healthy diet with lots of fresh fruits and vegetables and organic meats costs a fortunate and I realize millions of people in the US and around the world do not have this luxury.
Malnutrition is of course even worse in Sub-Saharan Africa and Asia where most of the world’s poverty exists. Take Nepal for example, a country I visited in 2010. In Nepal, the national food is dal ghat which is simply curried lentils and rice. Although it has high levels of protein, this is what is eaten for lunch and dinner every single day with little variety. Meat is a huge luxury and is rarely ever eaten. Green vegetables are a rarity as well as the variety of fruits we eat here in the US. Per the World Food Programme: “Malnutrition rates in Nepal are among the highest in the world. Forty-one percent of children under five are stunted, 29 percent are underweight and 11 percent are wasted“.
India is even worse off for children. Per UNICEF: “Malnutrition is more common in India than in Sub-Saharan Africa. One in every three malnourished children in the world lives in India. Malnutrition limits development and the capacity to learn. It also costs lives: about 50 per cent of all childhood deaths are attributed to malnutrition.”
Here in the US, in the land of mega shopping stores like Costco and Sam’s Clubs that have rows and rows of food, it is shocking that over 17 million children go to bed and wake up hungry every single day and are in various states of food insecurity. (Source: Map the Meal Child Food Insecurity 2011).
Photos below from my trip to India last May visiting children at an educational NGO:
So what are the implications of malnutrition on pregnant mothers and their children and why are the first 1,000 days of life so critical?
Why the First 1,000 Days Matter:*
The 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s 2nd birthday offer a unique window of opportunity to shape healthier and more prosperous futures. The right nutrition during this 1,000 day window can have a profound impact on a child’s ability to grow, learn, and rise out of poverty. It can also shape a society’s long-term health, stability and prosperity.
Today, undernutrition is still a leading cause of death of young children throughout the world. For infants and children under the age of two, the consequences of undernutrition are particularly severe, often irreversible, and reach far into the future.”
In 1,000 days, you can change the future
By focusing on improving nutrition for mothers and children in the 1,000 day window, we can help ensure a child can live a healthy and productive life. Investing in better nutrition in the 1,000 day window can also help families, communities and countries break the cycle of poverty.
As a result, leading scientists, economists and health experts agree that improving nutrition during the critical 1,000 day window is one of the best investments we can make to achieve lasting progress in global health and development.
Solutions that make a difference
Solutions to improve nutrition in the 1,000 day window are readily available, affordable and cost-effective. They include:
- Ensuring that mothers and young children get the necessary vitamins and minerals they need;
- Promoting good nutritional practices, including breastfeeding and appropriate, healthy foods for infants; and
- Treating malnourished children with special, therapeutic foods.
This post was written on behalf of Mom Bloggers for Social Good/Global Team of 200 which I’m honored to be a part of.