How to maintain momentum on nutrition and early childhood development

By  Published by DevPolicy on December 5, 2016

Of the many issues relevant to international development and poverty reduction, which would you rank as being the most important? According to Dr Jim Kim, World Bank President, the biggest single issue in development is that one in four children suffer from stunting (being well below average height for their age), an indicator of chronic malnutrition among children.

During the World Bank Annual Meetings in October, Dr Kim said:

Poor nutrition, few opportunities for early learning and stimulation, and toxic environments literally hardwire young children to miss out on opportunities to learn and later to earn good wages.

Many countries including Australia have welcomed the reappointment of Dr Kim as World Bank President for the next 5 years. One of Dr Kim’s stated priorities for his second term is an increased focus on nutrition and early childhood development.

On 6 October 2016, the World Bank hosted the ‘Investing in the Early Years’ Summit during its Annual Meetings, at which senior ministers from eight countries made commitments to promote early childhood development and reduce stunting among children.

Key commitments from the Summit (outlined in the World Bank’s media release and the author’s notes from the event) were:

  • Cameroon committed to reduce chronic malnutrition among children up to the age of 5 from 32% to 25%, through a multisectoral approach involving education, health and safety nets.
  • Côte d’Ivoire launched the National Multisector Plan for Nutrition which will mobilise $470 million to scale up investments in nutrition, and has set goals for 2020 of increasing health care coverage from 55% to 90% of the population; ensuring all children aged 6 to 16 are going to school; and reducing the proportion of the population in poverty from 46% to 20%.
  • Ethiopia committed US$600 million for decentralised services to support local health, education, and agriculture services, and is seeking support from the International Development Association to expand education and social protection.
  • Indonesia committed to action on early childhood development, including a conditional cash transfer program to promote behaviour change and promote child development; and an earmarked fund to support early childhood education.

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