Malnutrition is the largest single contributor to child mortality worldwide, and according to the World Health Organization is the underlying cause of death for at least 3 million children every year.   As the United States continues its efforts to help end world hunger and poverty, we must address the fundamental problem of malnutrition. 

Malnutrition has an unparalleled, devastating impact on individuals, communities and nations.  Unless we address this critical problem, we will continue to see children die unnecessarily and we will continue to watch nations struggling with poverty be forced to absorb the loss of billions of dollars in productivity, the stunting of its citizens, and the negative impacts to the country’s competitiveness and economic growth.

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A complex problem like malnutrition demands an innovative and effective foreign assistance solution. Specifically, addressing malnutrition requires coordinated planning and programming of effective nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions across multiple sectors, including agriculture, health, nutrition, water and sanitation, social protection and humanitarian assistance programs.

One year ago, the global momentum for nutrition was evident at the Nutrition for Growth Summit.  The summit attracted 90 stakeholders, including the U.S. and 23 other governments, to gather and discuss the importance of reducing malnutrition in a coordinated manner.  Those stakeholders signed the Global Nutrition for Growth Compact.  As we mark that anniversary, now is the time to combine smart strategies with effective and innovative funding options to truly end malnutrition. 

Over the last year, efforts have been underway in the United States to elevate nutrition as a priority. In our fiscal year 2014 and 2015 budgets, Congress has worked in a bipartisan manner to boost funding for nutrition programs–specifically in the global health account.  We were particularly encouraged by the new nutrition strategy released by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

This strategy is significant, because it recognizes the critical role of nutrition in human development and the multi-sectoral approach needed to address maternal and child malnutrition, particularly during the 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday. It also acknowledges that high rates of chronic malnutrition can significantly impact a nation’s GDP potential, as well as other economic and social costs. The strategy will also increase the impact of U.S. nutrition investments through enhanced coordination of nutrition programs across development agencies and through focusing nutrition resources on targeted countries and interventions.

Increased global health funding is a success story that needs to be shared. Since 2000, 440 million children have been immunized against vaccine-preventable diseases. Child deaths per year globally have been cut in half over the last 20 years from 12 million to 6 million.  U.S. leadership, together with partnerships with governments, civil society and the private sector across the globe, was responsible for these global health accomplishments and with our continued leadership, we can be equally impactful in address the world’s malnutrition crisis.

Recognizing and addressing the world’s malnutrition problem as one of the major underlying impediments to eradicating global poverty and economic growth will not only save lives, it is critical to the success of the U.S. government’s ability to advance our global development objectives.

Crenshaw has represented Florida's 4th Congressional District since 2001. He sits on the Appropriations Committee. Smith has represented Washington's 9th Congressional District since 1997. He sits on the Armed Services Committee. They are co-chairs of the House Congressional Caucus for Effective Foreign Assistance.