ROCHESTER, New York — On October 19, 2022, President Biden signed the Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act of 2021 into law. This bipartisan bill authorizes the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) to develop and implement programs to combat malnutrition globally. Below is a comprehensive breakdown of the new law, including expectations, directives and requirements to ensure its success in the fight against global malnutrition.
The establishment of nutrition programs under the act must follow these specifics:
- Focus on populations most susceptible to malnutrition, including children younger than 5 and pregnant or lactating women.
- Increase the coverage of nutrition resources. These resources may include the distribution of “prenatal vitamins, breastfeeding support, vitamin A supplementation and emergency therapeutic food.”
- Each country’s unique context and conditions should be evaluated for food fortification: the process of increasing vitamins and nutrients in staple foods.
- Nutrition programs must be data-driven and country-specific.
- Encourage and “leverage investments” to increase the quality and efficiency of existing health care systems and support health workers in communities.
Coordination of these efforts should include bolstering domestic resources, mobilization and financing, expanding research to identify country-specific needs and “ensuring appropriate burden-sharing” between organizations.
Nations facing the most significant burdens of malnutrition will receive priority assistance. Then, “not later than 5 years” after the government enacts the Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act of 2021, these countries must undergo review and revaluation.
The criteria to designate a “priority country” includes these factors:
- The existence of severe malnutrition among pregnant/lactating females or children younger than 5.
- A notable presence of marginalized, vulnerable or impoverished communities within a nation.
- Existing national nutrition strategies and “the demonstration of a strong political commitment,” signaling that a nation will properly implement aid.
A new Nutrition Leadership Council established at USAID will organize and spearhead the activities of the Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act. This council will ensure that nutrition interventions closely coordinate with existing strategies and relevant federal departments or agencies.
The membership of this council should consist of representatives from the Bureau for Global Health, the Bureau for Resilience and Food Security, the Bureau for Humanitarian Assistance and any “other appropriate USAID bureaus and offices.”
Furthermore, interagency collaboration is paramount. Specifically, the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation and the Millennium Challenge Corporation will work closely with USAID to bring efforts to combat global malnutrition to their full potential.
An implementation plan must be submitted to the “appropriate congressional committees” at latest 260 days after the government enacts the Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act of 2021.
This plan should:
- “Establish specific and measurable goals, objectives and performance metrics,” including benchmarks and a clear timeline.
- Require adequate “monitoring and evaluation plans for all new nutrition programs and activities.”
- Properly address nutrition in selected priority countries by taking existing health and development programs into account.
- “Require that all USAID grants, contracts and cooperative agreements” include targets for increased coverage of nutrition interventions.
Reports on the progress made toward malnutrition prevention and treatment will be submitted to the relevant congressional committees each year. In priority countries, detailed summaries of nutrition programs utilized in the previous year will be necessary, including an estimated number of people that these programs have impacted.
It will also be critical to include the barriers faced in the implementation of nutrition programs as well as lessons learned in the past year to improve future efforts. The Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act of 2021 will expire seven years after its enactment.
The passage of this bill marked the culmination of devoted bipartisan efforts in Congress. On April 27, 2022, the House of Representatives passed the Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act (H.R. 4693). The bill was first introduced on July 26, 2021, by Reps. Meeks (NY-05), McCaul (TX-10), Kim (CA-39) and Houlahan (PA-06).
The bill passed the Senate on September 20, 2022, led by Sens. Coons (D-DE), Wicker (R-MS), Kaine (D-VA) and Boozman (R-AR). In celebration of the passage of the Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act of 2021, Meeks, McCaul, Coons and Wicker said in an October press release: “We are proud to see that the Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act has been signed into law. This new law will advance life-saving and low-cost nutrition programs to urgently address alarming rates of malnutrition globally.”
Emphasizing that “more than 345 million people are facing acute food insecurity around the world and a famine declaration is looming in the Horn of Africa,” the cosponsors of this bill believe that “prioritizing effective nutrition activities and making them a core part of our existing humanitarian and development programs will strengthen the health, development and productivity of the next generation of children and families around the world.”
– Carly Ryan Brister