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Investing in Nutrition: the right move and the smart move

by Marie Rumsby, Policy and Advocacy Adviser, Save the Children

In two days’ time the world’s leaders will meet in London – a meeting that in three hours could decide the fate of a million children.

The Nutrition for Growth Summit, on Saturday 8 June, hosted by the British and Brazilian governments and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), will call on business, governments and civil society to pledge to tackle malnutrition.

Today, findings published by the Lancet Medical Journal highlight that undernutrition causes a staggering 45% of all deaths of children younger than 5 years; more than 3 million deaths each year.

Chance to save a million lives

The Lancet series explains how expanding 10 proven programmes and policies aimed at improving nutrition (such as nutrient supplements and promoting breastfeeding) to cover 90% of the world’s malnourished children could save an estimated 900,000 lives. This would cost $9.6 billion (£6.1bn) per year.

Investing in nutrition is the right thing to do. It saves lives. But it is also the smart thing to do.

When children don’t receive the right nutrients at the start of life, it undermines their physical development and ability to resist disease. The $9.6 billion a year could help 165 million children to fulfil their potential – contributing to economic growth and prosperity.

Our Food for Thought report, published last week, contains new evidence that shows that because malnutrition affects brain development, chronically malnourished children are on average nearly 20% less literate than those who have a nutritious diet.

Building  prosperity for the future

These children go on to have lower levels of confidence, lower career aspirations, and earn as much as 20% less. As a result, today’s malnutrition could cost the global economy £80 billion when today’s children reach working age.

Many developing countries will soon have 2 people of working age for every dependent. Their children could be their greatest economic opportunity – but only if we invest in their potential now.

The Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign, a coalition of almost 200 charities, is calling on the Summit to ensure at least $1 billion (£6.4bn) a year is invested in nutrition interventions.

Countries will not be able to break out of poverty and sustain economic advances without ensuring their populations are adequately nourished. Investing in Nutrition for Growth is a down payment on future prosperity.

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