WASHINGTON, D.C. – When it comes to fighting global poverty, few causes have as much public support and demonstrated success as programs targeting the health of mothers and their children as part of a human rights focused poverty reducing strategy. Currently in the United States House of Representatives is a resolution before committee pledging support for that cause. Recognizing the importance of United States leadership in addressing the challenge of global maternal and child malnutrition, or H.R. 254, was introduced to the House this past June.
The resolution reiterates the previously stated U.S. commitment to maternal and child health and its importance in fighting poverty. It recognizes the Scaling Up Nutrition movement as a global partnership and calls on relevant federal agencies to consider developing a nutrition strategy and better coordination with U.S. government global nutrition programs.
The resolution explicitly reaffirms security and nutrition as foundational for human development and that persistent hunger and malnutrition stunts the mental and physical development of children and hinders education, health, economics, and security. That the links between health and food security and poverty are demonstrated and that increasing nutrition interventions can help reduce poverty, improve educational attainment, lifetime earnings and economic productivity. Investing in maternal and child health programs can even increase a country’s GDP by as much as three percent annually.
The resolution includes mention of the recommendations of leading Nobel Laureate economists-that addressing hunger and malnutrition among young children should be the top priority for policymakers. The resolution also reaffirms fighting global poverty as essential to security and states, “Whereas food insecurity in developing countries forces tens of millions of people into poverty, contributes to political and social instability, erodes economic growth, and undermines United States foreign assistance investments in areas including basic education, global health, environmental protection, and democratic institutions;”
The resolution has a very slim chance of leaving committee, let alone moving onto the Senate. This resolution is a critical opportunity to restate the U.S. commitment to global security, human rights, and poverty reduction, and a chance to use government resources to eliminate suffering and secure equality.
The contents of this document will have real effects on real people. Every day nearly 1,500 women and over 10,000 babies die from easily preventable complications during pregnancy and childbirth. Many surviving mothers are left permanently disabled. Every year, nearly 10 million children under the age of five also die with nine out of ten of their deaths being from just six diseases. Almost all of which could be prevented with simple, effective and low cost solutions.
People need sustained pressure on governments to ensure that maternal and child health is pushed higher up national and international agendas and that it becomes a budgetary priority. Wealthy governments need to work with non-profits and institutions to help strengthen developing country health systems. This can only happen through long-term and sustained investment, in order to address the underlying. Those who support the fight against global poverty need to let their representatives know that ending global poverty is not just a priority a nations, but a right of the people.
– Nina Verfaillie