On my recent trip to Africa with Bread for the World, I saw firsthand how Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN), a movement that brings organizations together across sectors to support plans to scale up nutrition, is saving lives! The United States (through our foreign development dollars) and Irish Aid have been drum majors for the evidence that shows it is not enough to make sure gestating mothers and infants through 2 years of age receive enough *calories* to survive but that they need the appropriate nutrition to thrive!
Food is the first medicine. Maternal and child malnutrition is a real crisis! SUN’s 1000 Days movement is critical and Women of the ELCA signed on to this movement at this past July’s Triennial Convention.
Good nutrition avoids infection and prevents stunting. As a church, we have a primary purpose and moral imperative to support nutrition that sustains human life. Our advocacy is an advocacy of love. Our advocacy is beyond political affiliation and denominational allegiance. The most successful assistance efforts are collaborative and reach the household level. Such partnerships include government and civil society, NGOs/FBOs and local communities. Consistency in funding is required for credibility and stability.
Advocacy for foreign assistance for nutrition confronts the reality that undernourishment in Africa has real impact on maternal and child health through high levels of stunting, wasting and underweight. Stunting and malnutrition impacts all of society from maternal health, child mortality, educational achievements, response to HIV/AIDS and other infectious diseases and the national GDP. In far too many African societies there still is The Hunger Season.
In upcoming blogs, I hope to take you into Africa with me and recount the stories of mothers and fathers and their children. I want to share with you some of the healing and strengthening initiatives. The United States and other foreign assistance has an essential role in comprehensively assessing, partnering and funding effective interdisciplinary, local delivery programs based on sustainable capacity in receiver countries. And, churches and this women’s organization can play a key role in this support to local communities, because if development is not happening on the local level it is not happening.
Inez Torres Davis is director for justice for Women of the ELCA.