Remarks by USAID Deputy Administrator Donald K. Steinberg at the Fourth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries in Istanbul, Turkey

Tuesday, May 10, 2011
Investing in Nutrition

[Remarks As Prepared]

Thank you for inviting me and for holding this important event. In particular, thanks to Tony Lake, who has reaffirmed UNICEF's status as a thought leader. The work that he has done in identifying the need to focus development on the poorest of the poor, the most disadvantaged of the children in the world, is one of the most important paradigm shifts we've seen in the development world in the past decade. Congratulations.

We've been looking for a single solution or intervention in the area of human security and human progress and development for quite some time. I remember back in the day when we thought all we had to do was create a lot of infrastructure in the poorest of the poor countries and we'd be fine. Then we thought it was instead more important to focus on agriculture, or manufacturing, or education, or health interventions, or building human capacity. We've come to understand that you have to do a little bit of each of these initiatives. But if there is a single solution or intervention, nutrition is about as close that I would find, in part because it combines so many of the different elements that we're focused on and effects so many people. As we've heard before, nearly 200 million children under the age of 5 and 1 in 3 women suffer from under nutrition. Poor communities in developing countries disproportionately bear this burden and it has permanent consequences for individuals and countries on health, well-being, and economic growth.

Improved nutrition is crucial to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals. Good nutrition in early life builds human and economic capacity through improved learning and productivity, and contributes to a robust and stable workforce. Nutrition programs can empower women and girls by increasing their access to assets and education, which lessens their susceptibility to disease, improves adherence to health treatment, and promotes to national prosperity, stability, and security.

Indeed, USAID has made nutrition a centerpiece of our two largest president initiatives, the Global Health Initiative and Feed the Future. In both cases, emphasizing collaborative, multisector approaches to health, agriculture and social protection. We're focusing on that 1,000 day opportunity from pregnancy to two years. Children suffering from malnutrition during this period face physical stunting and mental impairment, and they are hard wired from them on so that no matter what intervention you do, achieve lesser result with those individuals. We see poorer school performance, lower incomes. In order to address this, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and a wide variety of private companies, NGOs and international organizations, came together to launch the 1,000 days partnership. Not only focusing on those 1,000 days in the lives of children, but the next 1,000 days after September 2010 to achieve game changing impact.

As we look out at the challenges we face, it is clear there are some paradigms that apply to all our development efforts and apply most carefully in this area. We know we need to see country ownership to begin with, with countries buying into this concept and working as leaders of the development efforts. We know we need to see partnerships, not only with the private sector but NGOs as well, and we're delighted to be working with Save the Children, World Vision, and the Hunger Project, in all these initiatives. We know we need to see application of science & technology, and throughout the world now, see best scientific work related to micronutrients, how to incorporate vitamin a and zinc, salt iodization, into the food that is eaten in these communities. We know we need monitoring & evaluation to hold ourselves accountable to the actions we commit ourselves too. And finally, we recognize the need to see evidence based interventions, and this is the centerpiece of all that we are trying to do here. Our efforts have focused primarily on the countries represented at this table, Mauritania, Ethiopia, Nepal, as well as Uganda, Tanzania, Malawi, and Ghana. These countries have expressed their commitment to scaling up nutrition, and pleased to be working with them along with UN partners, civil society, and private donors. This is all going to require robust partnerships and effective coordination to scale up nutrition. Look forward to working with all of you in the years to come. Thank you.

Fourth UN Conference on the Least Developed Countries, Istanbul, Turkey

Last updated: August 09, 2017

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