On December 14th, Nutrition International President and CEO Joel Spicer spoke at the Nutrition for Growth Year of Action Launch Event, which marked one year until the Tokyo Nutrition for Growth Summit in December of 2021, and the start of a make-or-break year for nutrition. Hosted by the Government of Canada and co-hosted by the Government of Bangladesh, in partnership with the Government of Japan and with support from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, this was a critical opportunity to highlight the foundational role of nutrition in the world’s response to COVID-19.

Watch the video or read his full speech below, including Nutrition International’s pledge to transform the lives of one billion people – especially women, adolescent girls and children – by improving their nutrition.

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I’d like to start by saying “Thank you Canada” – and Minister Gould – for your support for Nutrition International – and more particularly for your leadership in creating a global rallying point with our allies that focuses the world’s attention on the growing crisis of malnutrition and kicks-off a year of action.

Almost 30 years ago, Canada leaned-in with allies to bring us together in a similar way at the World Summit for Children so we could accelerate efforts to end preventable deaths.

And that’s where Nutrition International was born as part of Canada’s commitment to saving lives. We were created to take lifesaving nutrition interventions to scale.

For almost three decades, Nutrition International has been steadily expanding and deepening our work with countries, with partners – and with donors like the United Kingdom and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation – serving as a bridge from evidence to action at scale.

Along with our central role in vitamin A supplementation and salt iodization, we work alongside governments as an expert-ally on issues like scaling up food fortification, improving the nutrition outcomes from social safety net programs, and reinforcing efforts to tackle maternal and adolescent anaemia.

Traditionally – you’d expect to find global organizations in London, Geneva, or New York.

We’re proud to have our roots in Canada, but our branches are global, reaching more than 60 countries around the world.

Even though our world is going through a phase of division, disconnection, and growing inequity that sometimes makes me feel like we’re moving backwards, I know all of us share an unshakeable belief that a better world is possible.

If we actually wanted to build a better world where dignity, belonging, and connection – for all – were the new measures of positive progress for humanity, one of the first things we would do is to eliminate malnutrition.

We’d have better health – and pay less for it, immune systems would be stronger, education outcomes would improve, economies would grow, there would be more money in the pockets of people trying to escape poverty – and people would rise – because nutrition is the tide that lifts all boats.

My friends, this is not just an event. I hope that one year from now at the Nutrition for Growth Summit in Tokyo, we look back and realize that:

THIS was the moment – where we put together our collective sense of outrage at the indignity and injustice of malnutrition and we lifted it up as a global priority.

THIS was the moment – where we recognized that COVID risked wiping out decades worth of progress and investment for people – and we said: ‘No. Not on our watch’ because nutrition is the non-negotiable foundation we need in order to build a global recovery.

And that THIS was the moment – where we took action together that gave hope to millions of people.

To make this happen, not only are we going to need more financing for nutrition over the coming year – but the maximum impact possible from every dollar, taka, pound, and yen. That means prioritizing the people in greatest need, and scaling up low-cost, high impact actions that do the greatest good.

At Nutrition International we aim to transform the lives of one billion people – especially women, adolescent girls and children – by improving their nutrition.

I am happy to make the following commitments on behalf of our organization.

Specifically by 2030, working in support of governments and with our partners we will:

  • Prevent at least 4.4 million cases of stunting – giving children the right start and increasing the impact of global investments in education, health and economic growth.
  • Prevent at least 60 million cases of anaemia – driving global focus and action on a neglected issue that heavily impacts women, adolescent girls and children.
  • And we will provide and coordinate the global supply of vitamin A capsules, ensuring at least 150 million children receive two doses of life-saving vitamin A each year.

2021 is a make-or-break year in the fight against malnutrition. If we are courageous, if we are ambitious, if we are united in driving a new level of collective action – then we can alter the human trajectory for millions of people on this planet. And that change starts today.

Thank you.