By: Joyce Rothermel
Last month, several members of the U.S. House of Representatives asked their colleagues on the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations Subcommittee to substantially increase Nutrition funding in the Global Health Programs account for the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), and significantly scale up life-saving nutrition for women and young children. Representatives Joaquin Castro and James McGovern took the lead in this initiative.
They asked, “as you determine priorities for the Fiscal Year 2020 State, Foreign Operations and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, we respectfully request that you provide $195 million for the Nutrition sub-account within the Global Health Programs account at the USAID.”
For over 170 million children, chronic undernutrition leaves them vulnerable to disease and permanently impaired, their families impoverished, and their communities less resilient. Undernutrition robs developing nations of critical human capital and undermines national and international investments in other areas of health, education and economic growth. Undernutrition contributes to 2.6 million child deaths each year – more than any other disease.
The U.S. continues to be a leader in fighting undernutrition and advancing strategies that work – from education to improve maternal diets and pregnancy nutrition to promoting breastfeeding, from diversifying diet and fortifying staple foods to supplementing micronutrients. It is critical for Congress to provide increased funding for the Nutrition funding account and expand proven interventions that address the leading cause of child mortality.
For this current year, Congress increased funding for the Nutrition sub-account by $20 million, bringing total funding to $145 million. After four years of flat funding, this increase was more than welcome. This spring, members of the House urged the Sub-Committee to continue increasing funding for Nutrition so that long-neglected priorities can be further advanced and expanded. The $50 million increase they are requesting would allow, for example, for $20 million in additional funding to reduce maternal and pediatric anemia and $30 million to expand breastfeeding initiatives.
Congress has played a significant role in championing nutrition and increasing the Nutrition sub-account, which has undoubtedly been life-saving for millions of children, since almost half of all underfive child deaths are nutrition related. A substantial increase in the Nutrition subaccount would address the leading cause of child mortality by significantly scalingup US investments in nutrition.
Nutrition funding supports many specific and vital nutrition activities, such as nutrition education to improve maternal diets, nutrition during pregnancy, breastfeeding, and infant and young child feeding practices. It further supports diet quality and diversification through fortified or biofortified staple foods, specialized food products, and community gardens, as well as the delivery of nutrition services such as micro-nutrient supplementation and community management of acute malnutrition.
A $50 million increase in areas like maternal and pediatric anemia and breastfeeding initiatives would significantly advance USAID’s nutrition initiatives. Anemia affects half a billion women of reproductive age worldwide, impairing their health and economic productivity. Increased investments to address anemia would reduce malnutrition, maternal deaths, stillbirths, and premature and low birth weight infants.
Breastfeeding boosts a child’s immune system, protects from diseases, increases cognitive ability (IQ), and is essential for healthy growth. Scaling up breastfeeding to a near universal level could save over 800,000 lives per year. Addressing anemia and supporting breastfeeding are two of the most cost-effective interventions that are ready to be scaled up immediately, were increased funding made available.
Maintaining high funding levels for USAID’s nutrition programs fits squarely within our nation’s security and economic interests. These programs contribute to more stable societies where individuals can reach their full potential. They encourage, create and advance positive partnerships with the US, which in turn enhances our own global and domestic security.
Providing $195 million in total funding in FY 2020 for the Nutrition sub-account will send a clear signal that the US is committed to evidence-based nutritionspecific interventions that are critical to ensuring that children not only survive, but thrive, and that their mothers will live to see it. The US has been a leader in the fields of nutrition and food security. Continuing to provide ample increases in the Nutrition sub-account for FY 2020 will demonstrate that Congress remains committed and engaged on these life-saving and life-enhancing interventions.
The local Bread for the World Team, following its May 4 annual workshop (9 – noon at Pittsburgh Theological Seminary in the John Knox Room), will be reaching out to regional members of Congress, asking them to support this initiative. They will be inviting people in area churches to join them in letter writing and meetings at district offices on these critical issues. Please consider supporting this effort.
Several members of the SW PA Bread Team will travel to Washington, DC for this year’s Bread for the World Lobby Day on Tuesday, June 11. To find out more and/or join in these efforts, or call 412-780-5118.
Joyce Rothermel serves as co-chair of the SW PA Bread for the World Team.