In 2019, USAID reached 27.2 million children with high-impact—often life-saving—nutrition interventions as a result of the Agency's integrated efforts.
Worldwide, more than a quarter of children under five suffer from undernutrition. This includes 150 million children who are stunted or have a low height for their age, as well as more than 50 million who are wasted or have a low weight for their height, which can result from illness and undernutrition and are a major cause of child mortality. Undernutrition leaves children vulnerable to disease, impoverishes families, diminishes community resilience, and reduces critical human capital and capacity, thereby causing long-term detriment to national economies and social development.
As outlined in USAID’s Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy 2014–2025, the Agency’s investments address the prevention of all forms of undernutrition, with emphasis on those that target the "1,000 day window of opportunity" from pregnancy through a child's second birthday – a period in which good nutrition is critical for optimal physical and cognitive development.
USAID’s maternal and child nutrition programs improve health outcomes by implementing nutrition-specific interventions, or those that address the immediate, health-related determinants of undernutrition. These investments are closely coordinated with the Agency’s nutrition-sensitive interventions— those that address underlying or systemic causes of inadequate nutrition— including the integration of nutrition components into programs that focus on education; water, sanitation, and hygiene (WASH); agriculture; and the healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy.
The Agency's strategic approach to maternal and child nutrition focuses on increasing:
- The equitable provision and utilization of high-quality nutrition services through nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive services and commodities as well as social and behavior change strategies for nutrition activities
- Country capacity and commitment to nutrition at the institutional, political, stakeholder, and systems levels
- Multi-sectoral programming and coordination for improved nutrition outcomes including the strengthening of cross-sectoral planning, coordination among nutrition stakeholders in the U.S. Government and host governments, and engagement with the private sector
- Nutrition leadership through strengthening both the development and use of evidence-based approaches and innovative practices.
USAID is maximizing American investments in nutrition to boost prosperity and enhance the health and livelihoods of vulnerable populations. USAID’s maternal and child nutrition programs save lives, help children grow into strong, productive citizens, foster more comprehensive, sustainable health systems, and assist countries to progress beyond the need for foreign assistance.