Washington — The United States plans to spend $9 billion on nutrition activities through 2014, says U.S. Agency for International Development Administrator Rajiv Shah.
The funds will accelerate activities aimed at reducing child stunting by 20 percent by 2018 in the 19 low-resource countries supported by Feed the Future, the U.S. government's global hunger and food security initiative.
"Ensuring that a child receives adequate nutrition during the critical 1,000-day window from pregnancy to a child's second birthday can yield dividends for a lifetime," Shah said June 10 at a Washington event co-hosted by Bread for the World Institute and Concern Worldwide. Global nutrition has been a U.S. priority linking its Global Health Initiative and Feed the Future.
Undernutrition leads to more child deaths every year than any other cause, he said.
"To ensure that every child thrives," then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Irish Foreign Minister Micheál Martin launched the global 1,000 Days Partnership in 2010, Shah noted. Ireland's Minister of Trade and Development Joe Costello also spoke at the event, called "Sustaining Political Commitments to Scaling Up Nutrition."
Shah praised Bread for the World Institute and Concern Worldwide for their commitment to ending hunger, for helping to get science, research and agriculture on countries' development agendas, and for supporting a more flexible approach to delivering food aid. The approach announced earlier in 2013 by President Obama would include vouchers to purchase food in areas where U.S. food commodities cannot be distributed, he said.
Shah said that since 2011, the United States has more than doubled its spending on agricultural research and launched programs to help innovations reach smallholder farmers. In 2012, he said, Feed the Future helped 7 million farmers adopt improved technologies or management practices that helped them produce higher yields and earn higher incomes.
The U.S. spending recently was met by a pledge of $750 million in private funds for nutrition. Nongovernmental groups associated with the U.S. umbrella group Interaction made the pledge, Shah said.
He previewed Feed the Future's second annual report, to be released later in June. The report will highlight the program's system for gathering and disseminating "timely, accurate data that measures everything from household income to the participation of women to the prevalence of stunting," he said.
He said one of the most significant challenges that remain is continued underinvestment in agriculture by some countries, particularly "in the infrastructure that connects farmers to their markets."
The event followed Shah's June 8 participation in a high-level meeting in London during which he signed the Global Nutrition for Growth Compact, with the goals of reaching 500 million pregnant women and children under age 2 by 2020, averting 20 million cases of child stunting by the same year, and preventing 1.7 million deaths through increased breast-feeding, zinc supplements and more treatment of severe, acute malnutrition.
At that meeting, Shah and the United Kingdom's Secretary of State for International Development Justine Greening launched the Global Open Data Initiative for Agriculture and Nutrition to support international partners in efforts to make agriculture and nutrition data available to the public.
"By embracing high-impact partnerships, science and technology, we can achieve progress simply unimaginable in the past, including the end of extreme poverty, widespread hunger and chronic malnutrition," Shah said.
Nutrition and agricultural development are likely to be discussed at a meeting of the Group of Eight major economies hosted by the United Kingdom June 17-18 in Enniskillen, Northern Ireland.