The reduction in global hunger is often touted as one of the greatest achievements in the modern era, despite the fact that nearly 15% of people in developing nations are chronically malnourished. This is a perfectly preventable problem — an abundance of the proper nutrients and minerals could help save the three million children who perish every year as a result of malnutrition.
1000 Days is a nonprofit organization created in 2010 after a series of informative and revolutionary work produced by The Lancet. Researchers discovered that improper nutrition between the time of a child's conception to his/her second birthday — otherwise known as the first 1000 days — can cause irreversible damage to the body and the brain. These insights, combined with funding from the U.S. Government, the Government of Ireland, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, helped launch 1000 Days into the leading advocacy group that it is today.
What they advocate for:
Nearly all of the guiding principles of 1000 Days center around the idea that "the nutritional health of women and children...is a policy and funding priority." Stunting and wasting are two of the most common ailments resulting from childhood malnutrition, and both are potentially life-threatening. Children who are stunted have a low height for their age and are irreversibly burdened with lower IQs, slower or halted development, and weakened immune systems. Furthermore, women who were stunted at a young age often remain malnourished and go on to produce stunted children of their own, perpetuating the process into the next generation.
Wasting is similarly detrimental, referring to children who have a low weight for their height. According to UNICEF, wasting is a strong predictor of childhood mortality and is most often associated with rapid and extreme food shortages. Importantly, wasting and stunting are not always mutually exclusive. Children who experience both wasting and stunting concurrently are both under-weight and under-height for their age and consequently have extremely high rates of mortality.
Fortunately, both of these problems can be at least partially remediated through the process of exclusive breastfeeding. Breastmilk contains all of the essential vitamins, nutrients, calories, and minerals that a child needs for the first six months of life, and the decision to feed an infant other foods, formulas, or beverages in lieu of breastmilk can cause immediate and permanent damage. 1000 Days works to advocate for exclusive breastfeeding practices around the globe — a practice that could save over 800,000 children annually.
1000 Days also focuses on many other symptoms of malnutrition, including acute malnutrition, obesity, anemia, and low birth weight. Their initiatives are diverse and seek to address multiple dimensions of the global malnutrition conundrum, yet all stress the profound notion that 100% of malnutrition-related deaths are preventable. In some ways this is unsettling, given that millions of children are dying every year at the hands of ailments virtually unknown to the Western world. 1000 Days chooses to view this as reassuring -- the tools necessary to save the lives of countless women and children are already at our disposal.
What you can do to help:
Disclaimer: I am not a licensed nutritionist nor a registered dietician. The opinions expressed in this article are my own, and each individual is ultimately responsible for his/her dietary and nutrition practices. Please consult a physician before starting a new dietary program.