The Politics of Global Poverty and a Push to Reduce Child Malnutrition
President Biden has this week launched an international initiative to bring COVID under control all over the world. We know from his recent budget proposal that he intends this to be part of a broader effort to help low-income countries around the world deal with COVID and its consequences. Biden’s overarching foreign policy goal is to reestablish positive U.S. leadership in international affairs.
In this week’s webcast, Tom Hart - acting director of the ONE Campaign worldwide - talks about today’s global-poverty advocacy opportunities. He also draws lessons from the remarkable successes of global-poverty advocates over the last generation.
President Biden will probably deliver his first wide-ranging foreign policy address at the UN General Assembly in September. The United Nations will be hosting an international summit on food at the same time. I’m hoping that the President will announce a presidential initiative to revive progress against child malnutrition. People around the world understand that good nutrition is foundational to happy, productive lives.
Thanks to bipartisan support in Congress, the United States has maintained strong programs of international assistance related to agriculture, food, and nutrition. Within the United States, agriculture and the national nutrition programs are both strong. So President Biden can speak about food and nutrition from a position of strength. He also cares about these issues personally. He gave a remarkably knowledgeable, without-notes speech on how to end hunger at a Bread for the World event in New York in December 2018.
This spring I joined with all the other World Food Prize laureates in an open letter to the President, urging strong U.S. leadership at the UN Food Summit. We were encouraged by widespread media coverage and a forthcoming reply from Secretary of State Antony Blinken.
Malnutrition contributes to half the child deaths in the world and stunts the development of many more children than it kills. But the world has new and growing knowledge on how best to reduce malnutrition. After a decade of impressive success with evidence-based nutrition programs around the world, the pandemic has been a set-back. But we know how to revive and accelerate progress.
The Eleanor Crook Foundation, Johns Hopkins University, and other partners have thought through a strategy - called Nourish the Future - that incorporates the lessons of recent experience. It affirms approaches that would reduce malnutrition and achieve other purposes at the same time. For example, it’s possible to increase agricultural production in ways that also make farming environmentally sustainable and more focused on nutritious crops.
The last bit of this week’s webcast is a lively discussion between Tom and me about a current advocacy campaign to reduce malnutrition around the world. Bread for the World and its formidable grassroots network are right now pushing to increase next year’s appropriation for global nutrition programs from $150 million to $300 million. Bread also has a strong coalition of partner organizations on this issue. The coalition is working with legislators in both parties and both houses to develop Nourish the Future legislation. It would mandate strong, country-led nutrition aid with clear success metrics.
If Biden’s advisors see that members of Congress from both parties are urging more funding and action on global nutrition, the President is more likely to announce a nutrition initiative in September. In any case, advocates will keep pushing for passage of the Nourish the Future Act, and it has a good chance for bipartisan approval in both houses even in this deeply divided Congress.
Each of us can build momentum by urging our members of Congress - now - to increase annual funding for mother-child nutrition from $150 million to $300 million. Go to https://www.bread.org/write-congress. The page on child nutrition makes it easy to weigh in on this issue and, in the process, advance the politics of global poverty.