There is no tragedy more unimaginable than losing a child. Yet approximately 3 million young lives are lost each year to a condition that is completely preventable: malnutrition. In our modern day world, this is truly unimaginable.
The fact that malnutrition is one of the leading causes of death of children under the age of five has taken on a profound resonance since I became a mother for the first time in November. Worrying about whether your baby is getting enough to eat seems to be a universal right of passage for new mothers. But for many women around the world, this worry is a part of their everyday existence.
Not getting enough to eat, or more to the point, not getting enough of the right foods to eat is a problem that many women living in impoverished conditions around the world face. And while that is bad enough unto itself, the problem becomes doubly worse when a woman becomes pregnant.
A mother's nutrition is crucial, not only for her own survival, but for that of her child's. Women who are undernourished are more likely to have babies whose growth and development are restricted in the womb, and to give birth prematurely. This in turn leads to a higher risk of babies not surviving past infancy. All too often, either because of a lack of knowledge or cultural practices, newborns are not immediately breastfed or are given foods other than breast milk during their first six months. This dramatically lessens a child's chances of survival, claiming almost one million young lives a year.
In just a few days, on June 8th, the governments of the UK and Brazil together with the Children's Investment Fund Foundation will do something that I hope will turn the tide on malnutrition. They will bring together business leaders, scientists, governments and non-profit organizations from around the globe at the Nutrition for Growth: Beating Hunger through Business and Science meeting in London to make the ambitious first step to re-prioritize how the world addresses malnutrition. It is expected that a few leaders and philanthropists will make game-changing financial commitments to dramatically improve nutrition for millions of women and children around the world and save lives. This is long overdue as the world spends very little--less than 1 percent of all official development aid--on tackling malnutrition using the proven, highly cost-effective solutions that are readily available.
My job as an advocate for better maternal and child nutrition requires that I lean in to the fight against malnutrition. Now, my conscience as a mother demands it.
It is time we all double-down on ending the unimaginable tragedy of losing a single child--let alone 3 million children--to malnutrition.
This post is part of a series produced by The Huffington Post and the NGO alliance InterAction to coincide with the UK government's summit on addressing nutrition and hunger in developing countries, set to take place in London on June 8. To see all the posts in the series, click here. For more information on InterAction, click here. And follow the conversation on Twitter with hashtag #Nutrition4Growth.