"By investing in locally designed and led nutrition programs, applying the evidence of what works, and adapting quickly, we can prevent child malnutrition... and build a healthier world for everyone."

Samantha Power, Administrator, USAID.2021
Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit

for Nutrition


Nutrition affects every aspect of human development: from children’s performance in school, to our ability to fight off diseases, to a nation’s health, and economic advancement.

The 2021 Lancet Series on Maternal and Child Undernutrition Progress builds on previous research and provides an evidence-based agenda for how the global health and development community can improve the health and nutrition of today's generation and all the generations ahead. The 2021 Lancet Series on nutrition presents updated information and builds on the 2008 and 2013 Lancet Series to set forth an evidence-based, global agenda for tackling undernutrition.


If we want to change the world, we have 1,000 days to maximize our impact – woman by woman, child by child.

Optimal nutrition during the 1,000 day window between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday has the potential to change the future of millions of children and set them on the path to good health.

Globe Image of the Challenge

These critical 1,000 days lay the foundation for all the days that follow. How mothers and children are nourished and cared for during this time profoundly impacts a child’s physical growth, cognitive development, and lifelong health. Improving women’s and girls’ diets, access to nutrition services, and nutrition counseling – before and during pregnancy and while breastfeeding – are critical to preventing malnutrition among families and communities everywhere.

There is overwhelming evidence of the power of good nutrition but, due to challenges to accessing safe foods and nutrition services, many women and children in low-and middle-income countries remain undernourished.

The latest Lancet nutrition series reiterates that while we have made some important progress in reducing malnutrition worldwide over the past decade, our work is far from done as recent gains may be offset by the compounding effects of concurrent crises and the COVID-19 pandemic.


Almost half of the deaths of children under five years of age are attributable to undernutrition, and those children who survive often have compromised cognitive and physical development.

million children
under five years of age are
Low height-for-age
million children
under five years of age are
Low weight-for-height

Nutrition often remains underfunded and underprioritized among other critically important development initiatives but, without good nutrition, we don’t have the foundation for good health to meet our collective development goals.


The COVID-19 pandemic, conflict, and climate change are disrupting health and food systems and fueling a global nutrition crisis. We need to redouble our efforts to reach those at risk with proven nutrition solutions.

CoVID-19 Pandemic

CoVID-19 Pandemic

Experts estimate that these disruptions could result in an additional 17 million severely malnourished children compared to pre-pandemic levels.

Pandemic-related disruptions to global food and health systems have dramatically increased the risk of malnutrition for families and communities across the globe. Due to reduced access to safe and nutritious food and routine health services, experts are predicting there will be an additional 13.6 million children who experience wasting and 3.6 million children who are stunted. This is compounded by an estimated $44.3 billion in future productivity lost due to the long-term negative impacts of poor nutrition in early childhood.

Photo credit: Ester L. Hutabarat/MOMENTUM Private Healthcare Delivery
malnutrition regions affected by conflict.


3 in 4 children whose growth has been stunted by malnutrition live in a region affected by conflict.

Armed conflict is another significant driver of malnutrition, as dangerous conditions force civilians to flee their homes and abandon their crops. Governments and aid organizations struggle to meet the food security needs of so many displaced people, and access to health services is limited. As a result, in places like the Horn of Africa, tens of millions of children and adults do not have enough food to eat or access to critical services that can address malnutrition.

Photo credit: (c) UNICEF
Climate change can disrupt food availability

Climate change

Climate change can disrupt food availability, reduce the nutritional quality and access to crops, and increase the strains on health systems.

The growing frequency and severity of droughts, floods, and heat waves makes it more difficult to grow crops and raise livestock. Increases in carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere are making the crops that do survive less nutritious, presenting additional challenges when it comes to nourishing the world’s growing population. And as temperatures rise, vector-borne diseases, such as malaria, are moving into new areas and water-borne diseases are becoming more prevalent due to flooding and drought, increasing pressure on already stretched health systems.

Photo credit: Jervis Sundays, Kenya Red Cross Society


Over time, nutrition outcomes have advanced through cost-effective, evidence-based solutions. Even in the face of unprecedented challenges, we have the tools to end severe malnutrition.

Supporting lactating mothers and their families with skilled breastfeeding counseling

Breast milk is the ideal food for infants. It has the perfect mixture of nutrients for physical growth and brain development and contains antibodies which can help protect against many childhood infections. Newborns get the best start at life when they consume nothing but breast milk until they are six months old and continue breastfeeding until they are two years old while also consuming other nutritious, complementary foods. For nursing parents, breastfeeding improves birth spacing, and reduces the risk of breast and ovarian cancers and chronic diseases like type 2 diabetes and heart disease.

Improving access to iron and folic acid/multiple micronutrient supplements for pregnant women

Anemia is associated with iron, folate, and Vitamin A deficiencies and is estimated to affect 38% of pregnant women globally. Iron and folic acid or multiple micronutrient supplementation for pregnant women has the potential to prevent maternal anemia, preterm birth, and ensure that a baby will be born at a healthy weight.

Supporting dual-benefit healthcare interventions

Other healthcare interventions provide important indirect benefits for nutrition. Access to family planning enables parents and communities to better prepare for children and improve the nutritional status of both women and children.Supporting the practice of direct skin-to-skin contact between parents and preterm or low birthweight newborns, known as Kangaroo Mother Care, improves breast milk production and newborn weight gain.

Expanding the capacity of health systems to prevent, care for, and treat wasting

The most life-threatening and visible form of malnutrition, wasting is one of the top threats to child survival. It is caused by a lack of nutritious food and repeated bouts of illness, which weaken a child's immune system. Early detection through routine childhood screening for malnutrition and treatment of wasting with ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) and other strategies are cost-effective ways to dramatically reduce child death rates. Prevention of wasting in the first place through counseling on breastfeeding promotion, quality prenatal care, quality child health services, and access to safe and nutritious foods helps communities thrive.

Continuing large-scale Vitamin A supplementation

Vitamin A is essential for optimal child health and immune function. Children with a deficiency in Vitamin A are at a higher risk of developing common childhood illnesses, which can often prove to be fatal. Supplying a child with two high doses of Vitamin A every year is one the most cost-effective ways to protect children from blindness, diarrhea, and other fatal illnesses.


For over 60 years, USAID has been a leader in the fight to end global malnutrition. In October 2022, President Biden signed the Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act (GMPTA) into law, which further directs USAID to prevent and treat malnutrition globally, placing the Agency at the center of the U.S. government’s response on global nutrition.

Against the backdrop of the global food security and malnutrition crisis driven by climate change, Russia’s war on Ukraine, and COVID-19, the passing of the GMPTA comes at a critical time.

The Act lays out ambitious global goals by targeting resources and evidence-based intervention to support the most vulnerable to severe malnutrition, including children under five, and pregnant and lactating women.

The Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act (GMPTA) also highlights the importance of strengthening systems to provide key nutrition interventions including:

Prenatal nutrient supplements Number 1

Prenatal nutrient supplements

Breastfeeding support Number 2

Breastfeeding support

Vitamin A supplementation Number 3

Vitamin A supplementation

Specialized nutritious food products for the treatment of acute malnutrition Number 4

Specialized nutritious food products for the treatment of acute malnutrition

The GMPTA underscores the importance of supporting countries to leverage funds to equip health workers with the skills to advance nutrition and improve the delivery of essential health and nutrition supplies. The Act is informed by evidence of what works for each country’s individual needs and contexts, such as supporting partner governments to develop unique, country-specific strategies to prevent and treat malnutrition and support communities to thrive.

Priority Countries
Strategic Support
USAID nutrition support focuses on fourteen priority countries and four strategic support countries.

+ MOMENTUM in Action

While nutrition gains are under threat, we have the tools at hand to support women along the continuum of care and children to get a strong start to life. MOMENTUM supports USAID’s Multi-Sectoral Nutrition Strategy by scaling up the use of evidence-based interventions while working with governments to build  country capacity and commitment within health systems.  

MOMENTUM collaborates with health facilities and community health programs to strengthen breastfeeding and nutrition counseling and services within existing maternal, newborn, and child health and family planning programs.

Ghana Ghana

In Ghana,

A MOMENTUM  assessment of eight health facilities has identified knowledge gaps about breastfeeding among health providers and local communities and enabled capacity building support to better address them.

In Mali,

MOMENTUM recently supported National Nutrition Week activities in Timbuktu. Over the course of a week, the campaign successfully administered Vitamin A supplementation to 3,201 infants (ages 6-11 months) and to 25,862 children under the age of five.

Mali Mali
Congo Congo

In the Democratic Republic of Congo,

MOMENTUM is training community health workers to screen children for malnutrition and refer them to health facilities for care. In the first three months, nearly 35,000 children were screened. Community Health Workers identified more than 1,000 cases of moderate acute malnutrition and over 100 children with severe acute malnutrition were referred to health facilities for treatment.

In Burkina Faso,

USAID’s MOMENTUM project is collaborating with local partners to prioritize and strengthen nutrition counseling as part of routine antenatal care, which promotes taking iron and folic acid tablets during pregnancy to prevent anemia.

Burkina Faso Burkina Faso

+ Building MOMENTUM

While great strides are being made, the international community must urgently redouble efforts to address the nutrition crisis and deploy interventions at scale. Investments in evidence-based nutrition solutions must be paired with support for broader health systems, the foundation for the delivery of high quality nutrition services for women and children. In doing so, we can make the first 1,000 days the catalyst for lifelong health and development.

We have the tools, and together we can build momentum for a brighter future.

Child playing with blocks