Maternal and child malnutrition is a scourge in our world. Under-nutrition causes the deaths of over 3 million children every year and 165 million children under five years of age suffer from stunting and lack the nutrients they need to develop their full potential. Combating global hunger and under-nutrition is a key pillar of our foreign policy and our overseas development assistance programme. Ireland was a founding supporter of the Scaling Up Nutrition or SUN movement, a global movement to tackle under-nutrition, especially maternal, infant and child under-nutrition.
At the SUN global gathering meeting held en marge of the UN General Assembly last week, I outlined Ireland’s continuing commitment to address maternal and child malnutrition. I announced €3 million in funding to increase vulnerable families’ access to nutritious foods, to boost agricultural productivity and to raise awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding and good early nutrition. This funding will be directed to three programmes: a joint donor financing mechanism, established this year and managed by the international NGO, CARE International, to support Zambia’s national programme to prevent stunting in early childhood by targeting the first one thousand days of a child’s life from pregnancy to the age of two, a critical window for growth and development; the Alive and Thrive initiative to improve infant and young child nutrition by increasing exclusive breastfeeding rates for infants up to six months of age and by improving feeding practices; and the Global Agricultural Food Security Programme, managed by the World Bank, which aims to make lasting, transformative improvements in food security through increasing the agricultural productivity and incomes of poor farmers.
This support underlines our continuing commitment to improving the lives and futures of poor women and children in developing countries and will ensure that Ireland remains a leader in addressing world hunger and under-nutrition.