World Bank’s Human Capital Summit highlights the importance of investing in early childhood years

Investing in the early years is one of the smartest investments a country can make to break the cycle of poverty, address inequality, and boost productivity later in life.

Investing in the early years is one of the smartest investments a country can make to break the cycle of poverty, address inequality, and boost productivity later in life.

WASHINGTON, D.C., USA ― The World Bank’s Human Capital Summit, which took place in Washington, D.C., on October 6 2016, focused on the importance of investing in early years to help break the cycle of poverty, address inequality and boost productivity later in life.

The Micronutrient Initiative (MI) welcomed the opportunity to participate in this event. MI is a strong advocate for the necessity of ensuring a strong nutritional foundation in the 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday. When nutrition is prioritized early, lifelong levels of health, wellness and security are elevated and generational cycles of undernutrition and underdevelopment can be stopped. Annually, undernutrition claims the lives of 3 million children under the age of five and costs the global economy billions of dollars in lost productivity and health care costs. Nutrition is crucial to early childhood development, with half of all child deaths linked to malnutrition and an estimated 43% – or 249 million – of children under five in low- and middle-income countries at an increased risk of poor development due to extreme poverty and stunting.

“These human and economic losses are catastrophic, unjust and unacceptable,” said Joel Spicer, MI’s President and CEO. “We cannot build a better world with this level of preventable damage impacting so many children. Investing in nutrition is a vital tool for advancing economies, alleviating poverty, and protecting and promoting human rights. This challenge is so much cheaper to address head-on than to allow to continue.”

Every dollar invested in nutrition can yield $16 in economic benefits, with malnutrition costing the global economy $3.5 trillion dollars every year. According to The Lancet’s recently-published series on early childhood development, interventions that promote nurturing care may cost as little as 50 cents per child per year when combined with existing services.

“When the World Bank President Jim Kim is talking about investing in nutrition as an essential prerequisite to fighting poverty and driving inclusive growth for all – that sends a strong message that this is a problem heads of state and ministers of finance need to prioritize. The increasing political awareness about the urgency of scaling up efforts to end malnutrition is encouraging, and there is reason to be positive. However, the concrete challenge will be to convert this political will into additional financing, and action on the ground that will make a real difference in people’s lives,” said Spicer.

Watch the replay of the Human Capital Summit