Children at Core of Post-2015 Efforts to Alleviate Poverty

By Erin Olsen, ChildFund Staff Writer

Last week, the United Nations released the Post-2015 Development Agenda, outlining the strategy for eliminating extreme poverty by 2030. The agenda is a continuation of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), set to expire in 2015, and includes recommendations from thousands of civil society organizations, businesses, governments and everyday people from more than 120 countries. The result is what the report calls a “bold yet practical vision” for the future of development.

three children on playground

Children in Kapuk, West Jakarta.

It was exciting to see children at the core of the Post-2015 Agenda. Among the 12 goals outlined, eight specifically target children’s issues. At the forefront: violence against children, gender discrimination, job training and education for youths and prevention of deaths among children under 5 and mothers during childbirth.

Since the declaration of the MDGs in 2000, there have been many successes, particularly for children. According to UNICEF, more children – especially girls – are now attending primary school, maternal and child deaths have declined steadily. Malnutrition in children under age 5 is lower than ever. Globally, extreme poverty has been reduced by half.

Despite the successes, there have been some shortcomings, in part because the eight defined goals were not well integrated. Effective sustainable development requires a holistic approach. For example, combating malaria doesn’t just require supplying those at risk with pesticide-treated nets and medicines; it also requires tackling the root causes of poverty, like poor infrastructure in communities and inequality.

Addressing that lack of integration is a main focus of the Post-2015 Agenda. The agenda is driven by five “transformative shifts” that will help to meet the 12 goals to end poverty. Economic growth, universality, peace, global partnering and sustainability are all essential to meeting the goals by 2030. Each goal focuses on a particular sector such as gender, water and sanitation, health, food security, education and economics. These goals integrate and overlap, and ideally the success of one goal will lead to the success of another. It will require a pretty drastic global paradigm shift, but the payoff could be huge.

ChildFund’s programs are already ahead of the curve on many of these issues, and sustainability is at the heart of ChildFund’s mission. Our integrated, sustainable approach tackles root causes of poverty and focuses on holistic programs. For example, our Early Childhood Development programs incorporate maternal and child health, early education and nutrition, as well as addressing parenting techniques and preventing violence in the home.

You can play a part in eradicating poverty and helping children in need by Sponsoring a Child, and supporting ChildFund’s efforts to provide innovated, integrated programs to help children throughout the world.

ChildFund’s Contribution to Child Health and Nutrition

Yesterday, we reported on the critical 1,000-day window that begins with a woman’s pregnancy and continues until a child is 2 years old. Today, we share examples of how ChildFund nutrition and health education programs are helping ensure that infants get a healthy start on life.

Honduras: With ChildFund assistance, community mothers have formed support groups to track children’s growth monthly. When a child is not achieving growth benchmarks, the mothers respond quickly, changing nutrition practices or taking the child to a ChildFund-supported health hut for medical care. They are stopping undernutrition before it permanently affects children’s health.

Kenya and Ethiopia: Malnourished children who are orphaned or otherwise vulnerable due to the HIV/AIDS epidemic receive food supplements through ChildFund initiatives funded by PEPFAR (the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief). Families receive support through home-based services, including regular home visits from community-based organizations and volunteers.

India and Indonesia: ChildFund works with mothers of moderately malnourished children to help them improve feeding practices through culturally sensitive programming provided in Positive Deviance/Hearth groups. The groups also provide preventive health education.

Senegal mothers check the growth of an infant.

Senegal: During monthly sessions with mothers at health huts, ChildFund community health workers promote healthy growth among children 2 and under. Mothers of malnourished children receive intensive counseling and follow-up, and their children are referred to local health posts for medical treatment and food supplements. ChildFund Senegal leads a consortium of development organizations to provide these services throughout the country.

Bolivia: Working with the Bolivia Ministry of Health (MOH), ChildFund carefully monitors and supports children during their first two years of life to ensure normal growth and development. Community-based health workers visit mothers in their homes to reinforce effective feeding practices and to educate mothers about culturally appropriate development stimulation. The MOH provides medical care as well as food supplements and micro-nutrient “sprinkles” to malnourished children.

Ongoing research: ChildFund recently forged a partnership with the University of North Carolina’s Gillings School of Global Public Health to improve the lives and health of vulnerable children from birth to age two. The Innovation Lab will develop and test an evidence-based program in two countries that can be scaled up globally. Peggy Bentley, Ph.D., nutrition professor and associate dean for global health at the school, will lead the program. Cyril Engmann, M.D., neonatologist in UNC School of Medicine’s Department of Pediatrics and adjunct assistant professor of maternal and child health at the public health school, is co-principal investigator for the lab. Additional faculty with expertise in safe water and sanitation, child development, injury and violence prevention, implementation science, curriculum development, breastfeeding and weaning, and monitoring and evaluation will contribute expertise.

Through these programs and more, ChildFund is keeping a close watch on children’s first 1,000 days.  Improving child nutrition is a critical component of the overall Millennium Development Goals to reverse poverty by 2015.

One Thousand Days to Act on Child Undernutrition

by Anne Lynam Goddard, ChildFund President and CEO

I’ve often said that childhood is a one-time opportunity.

It was heartening to find strong support for this concept at the “Partnering to Reduce Child Undernutrition” session held during the MDG Summit this week in New York. Secretary of State Hilary Rodham Clinton and Michaél Martin, T.D., Ireland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, co-hosted the event, which spotlighted the critical 1,000-day nutrition window that starts with a mother’s pregnancy and continues until the child is 2 years old.

Leaders from governments, international organizations, civil society organizations and the private sector emphasized that undernutrition for children under age 2 causes physiological and mental limitations that can never be made up.

At this meeting, two objectives emerged:
1) Call attention to the 1,000-day nutrition window that ensures a healthier and more prosperous future for children.
2) Gain multilateral support for alleviating child hunger and undernutrition over the next 1,000 days.

Foreign Minister Martin spoke movingly of Ireland’s history of famine. Following a 2008 study on hunger by Ireland’s Concern Worldwide, Germany’s Welthungerhilfe and the U.S.-based International Food Policy Research Institute, Ireland has committed 20 percent of Irish aid to reducing global hunger.

Burden of Knowledge
As Josette Sheeran, World Food Programme executive director, noted, “Once you have the burden of knowledge, you have to do something about it.”

Secretary of State Clinton — reiterating the U.S. government’s support for country “ownership” — pointed out that food security projects come and go. Thus, it’s necessary to build capacity in countries so they are able sustain efforts over time.

In our work with communities around the world, ChildFund emphasizes nutrition as a key developmental factor for healthy and secure infants. Two years ago ChildFund signed on to the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) framework for supporting sustainable nutrition initiatives in countries with high malnutrition. The SUN Roadmap outlines a short list of actionable priorities to improve infant and child nutrition, which now has the support of the 1,000 days initiative.

Many basic things can be done to alleviate undernutrition such as fortifying foods, making vitamins A and E available to children and improving agricultural practices. We heard encouraging reports from Brazil, Ghana and Malawi — all have made great strides in reducing malnutrition in their countries. It’s essential to share these success stories and lessons learned.

On the corporate side, the Coca-Cola Co. and the Nike Foundation are two prominent supporters of improved nutrition for children. Coke has developed a new fortified nutrition drink that has been used with success in the Philippines.

Nike is committed to supporting efforts that lead to healthy adolescent girls. Foundation President Maria Eitel noted that in the U.S. we tell young girls that if they try, they can be anything they want to be. But if we tell that to young girls in developing nations, “it’s a lie,” she said. There are many hurdles in their way.

Ensuring good neonatal and child nutrition is one of the first steps toward breaking down the obstacles that limit children’s potential.

Next Steps
For the 1,000 days initiative to succeed, three components are essential:

  • political will
  • resources
  • structure in the form of a coordinating body.

On Tuesday, we certainly saw political will. The heads of Unicef, World Health Organization, World Food Programme, the U.N. Secretary-General, foreign ministers and ministers of finance were present — and we had strong representation from the private sector and development organizations. We can check that box.

The matter of resources is not so clear. Certainly Ireland has made a firm commitment, but a lot more people and organizations will have to step up to the plate.

Also unclear is the structure of the movement going forward. Specifics are currently lacking. To maximize this opportunity we need to build momentum over the next 1,000 days to brand the initiative and draw more supporters. Additional meetings are planned this week to firm up commitments from various participants in the MDG Summit, and a follow-up meeting has been set for June 2011.

We all share in the “burden of knowledge” that inadequate nutrition for children under the age of 2 creates deficiencies that can never be overcome.

For each child, we have a one-time shot at getting it right.

Malaria Prevention Is Saving Children’s Lives

A new report confirms that the current global investment in malaria control is saving lives and that further increases in funding will contribute significantly to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) for health.

The study by Tulane University, Johns Hopkins University, WHO and PATH and published by the Roll Back Malaria Partnership, provides the first assessment of lives saved as result of preventive measures.

Through the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets, indoor residual spraying and preventive treatment of malaria during pregnancy, it’s estimated that the lives of nearly 750,000 children in 34 African countries have been saved during the last decade.

A group of grandmothers in Senegal gather as part of the community-mobilization effort to prevent malaria. Photo: (c) Catherine Karnow/Malaria No More

A group of grandmothers in Senegal gather as part of the community-mobilization effort to prevent malaria. Photo: (c) Catherine Karnow / Malaria No More

The report estimates that an additional 3 million lives could be saved by 2015 if the world continues to increase investment in tackling the disease. ChildFund is pursuing this goal by working with trained community health volunteers to provide malaria-prevention education to children and their families. In addition, ChildFund-supported community health huts provide medical care to children who contract the disease.

Malaria causes more than 850,000 deaths per year worldwide, primarily in Africa where the disease accounts for almost 20 percent of all child deaths. Malaria also threatens the health of pregnant women. In sub-Saharan Africa, as many as 10,000 pregnant women die each year of malaria-related causes, mainly anemia.

The report provides the first assessment of lives saved based on the level of coverage achieved with currently available malaria-prevention tools.

“The findings from this report clearly show the efficacy of our efforts to save lives, especially among children in Africa,” says Awa Coll Seck, executive director of the Roll Back Malaria Partnership “This is a vital tool which can help strengthen country planning and guide us all as we focus on 2015.”

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