Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation

Ministers of Finance champion investment in Early Years – through the Global Finance Facility

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October 19, 2016

The importance of investing in the early years of a child’s life took center stage at the IMF-World Bank Group Annual Meetings on October 6, 2016. During the Human Capital Summit, (Watch: http://live.worldbank.org/human-capital-summit) Heads of State, Ministers of Finance and Economics and other officials from nine countries: Cameroun, Côte d’Ivoire, Ethiopia, Indonesia, Madagascar, Senegal, Tanzania and Pakistan - along with Jim Yong Kim, the President of the World Bank Group, emphasized the importance of investing in the early years as a key driver of economic growth and competitiveness. (Read: At Human Capital Summit, Global Financing Facility Highlighted as Key Partnership for Scaling up Investments in Early Years of Life)

 

We have learnt that early childhood experiences have a profound impact on brain development, affecting learning, health, behavior and adult income. According to the World Bank, the per capita income penalty a country incurs for not eliminating stunting is 6% on average, while Sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia incur penalties of about 8% of GDP per capita.

 

The Lancet recently released a series of papers on Early Childhood Development that found that children suffered lifelong disadvantages from poverty and stunting and that these children faced an average 26% loss of adult income per year. Investing in healthy mothers, exclusive breastfeeding and proper infant and young child feeding are three important places to start. The Global Financing Facility (GFF) is ensuring that pregnant women, mothers, newborn, children and adolescents access high-quality health, nutrition and reproductive services that enable a healthy, safe and planned pregnancy, delivery, and post-natal care, and well-child care (Read: Breastfeeding: A Smart Investment for Reaching the Sustainable Development Goals). By supporting countries through targeted and innovative investments in health and nutrition, the GFF contributes to the goal of reducing chronic malnutrition in children and expanding access to early childhood development services by 2020.

 

The Human Capital Summit occurred just two weeks after the launch of the report, The Global Financing Facility: Country-Powered Investments for Every Woman, Every Child, which includes 31 contributions by heads of state, agencies, international organizations, companies, civil society organizations and partnerships, confirming the highest and broadest support for the GFF to date. At the launch, World Bank Group President Jim Yong Kim also announced that the GFF now was reaching 16 countries, including new additions Guinea, Myanmar, Sierra Leone and Guatemala—a country that has strongly committed to investing in nutrition.

 

We are looking forward to supporting countries in building on this unprecedented momentum, particularly Ministers of Finance as they work with their Ministries of Health and Education to operationalize and ensure resources for this agenda. Partners like the Power of Nutrition, Scaling Up Nutrition and the Early Childhood Development Action Network and the country driven platform and financing provided by the Global Financing Facility (GFF) in Support of Every Woman Every Child will be key in scaling up nutrition and other key interventions to ensure that children survive and thrive and get a better start in life.

 

This message echoed in Africa on Monday, as the President of the African Development Bank convened the first meeting of the Champions Group of the African Leaders for Nutrition. In his opening remarks he declared that “… grey matter infrastructure is the most important infrastructure that we need to build in Africa.” The former President of Ghana, John Kufour, Chair of the Global Panel on Agriculture and Food Systems for Nutrition and member of the Champions Group concluded that “… the most basic infrastructure of all is the brain.”

 
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