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. Today, millions of young children are not reaching their full potential because of inadequate nutrition, lack of early stimulation and learning, and exposure to stress. Investments in the physical, mental, and emotional development of children — from before birth until they enter primary school – are critical for the future productivity of individuals and for the economic competitiveness of nations.
Affecting one in four children under five globally, chronic malnutrition can hamper their long-term health and cognitive development.
Governments seem unable to prioritise the early years for real investment as they may only be in power for 5 years – a true vision for a country (health ,education and environment ) demands a vision and a strategy lasting 20 years.
In Peru, however, the government has achieved staggering results in cutting the stunting rate, which was formerly one of the highest in South America. The country more than halved its rate of chronic malnutrition among children under five, from around 28% in 2008 to 13% in 2016. As a result, an estimated 377,000 young children avoided stunting between 2007 and 2016. Many countries in the region experienced economic growth, but Peru’s acceleration in cutting stunting was a result of structural changes in its approach.
Reforms were driven by the Peruvian Ministry of Economy and Finance (MEF), which established a Results-Based Budgeting (RBB) system in 2008. This included analysing stunting rates in different areas and targeting resources to where they were most needed. Using real-time data, they could work out which interventions were creating impact or not, and make changes accordingly. “They really restricted it to the most critical period of life when you can still have an impact on malnutrition,”
Here in Tanzania we have nearly 50% of the children who are stunted – when will these 50% have a voice and a stake in their future potential or will they just remain a statistic?