Is Investing in Nutrition the Key to Achieving the Global Goals?

By: Brittany Tatum; Originally Posted on Global Citizen

There are an estimated 795 million people in the world who don’t have enough food to lead a healthy, active life. That’s 1 out of 9 experiencing malnutrition, sometimes with devastating outcomes. Malnutrition contributes to roughly half of the 8.8 million child deaths per year. According to the World Health Organization, malnutrition is the biggest trigger for multiple diseases and risk factors, including stunted growth, obesity-related conditions, and iron-deficiency anemia. However, there are actions that can improve nutrition and the health of girls and women.

The first step to ensuring healthy children is ensuring that pregnant women and mothers have adequate nutrition. During pregnancy, all women need a diverse diet, full of vitamins and minerals, and access to prenatal vitamins and care. Investing in vitamins such as iron supplements, is a low-cost way to lower women’s risk of dying during childbirth, and can also strengthen children’s resistance to disease.

From the beginning of pregnancy to the age of two, there is a window – known as 1,000 days - that has the potential to save thousands of lives. This window of opportunity is a critical time that affects children’s reasoning ability and physical growth. Making sure children receive adequate nutrition during this time can insure that children will perform better in school, and more effectively fight off diseases as an adult.

If children in the developing world received proper nutrition, alongside breastfeeding, stunting rates at 12 months could be cut by 20 percent. Stunted growth is one of the results of malnutrition, which leads to higher risks of delayed mental development and premature death. Unfortunately, one in four children under the age of five is stunted globally. There are solutions to preventing malnutrition though, such as exclusive breast-feeding, proper immunizations, and access to clean water and hygienic living spaces.

Proper nutrition is clearly linked to healthy children but where does nutrition come into play when it comes to women? If women farmers had the same access to resources as men, the number of hungry people in the world could be reduced by up to 150 million. This could also lower the number of malnourished people by as much as 17 percent.

When women have more impact over economic decisions, families benefit by having more funds allocated to food, health, education, and children’s nutrition. By improving nutrition habits during adolescence, children learn healthier habits for life, which in turn could aid in breaking intergenerational cycles of malnutrition and poverty.

Still not convinced? Think of this. No matter where you are in the world, for every dollar invested in nutrition, the median return will be more than 16 dollars. There is a ripple effect that occurs when you invest in the health and wellbeing of girls, women, and families. If we make nutrition a dominant part of the Sustainable Development agenda, we will see improvement in all of the Global Goals. From ending global poverty to economic growth, proper nutrition has a substantial role to play.

Photo via Flickr- FMSC

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