ISSUES - First 1,000 Days of Life


World attention is increasingly focused on the most critical period in life-the first 1,000 days of life from conception to the second birthday— and rightfully so. This unique "window of opportunity" affects the life and health of an individual for their lifetime while contributing to the overall economic health of their country. The right nutrition given to adolescents and women of childbearing age, pregnant women and children under age 2 results in dramatic decreases in child mortality and malnutrition.

A recent series of reports by Lancet, Maternal and Child Nutrition, issues an urgent plea to governments to make nutrition during the first 1,000 days of life, and for adolescents and women of reproductive age, the center of the new development goals.

According to the Series, malnutrition is responsible for 45% of all deaths among children under the age of five, ending the lives of at least 3.1 million children a year. More than 800,000 babies-one in four newborns-die each year because they are born too soon or too small as a result of poor maternal nutrition. Malnutrition also results in the stunted growth of 165 million children resulting in impaired physical and cognitive development with lasting detriment to the individual and to the economic health of countries.

Drastic improvements are being made by providing adolescent girls and women of childbearing age with nutritious food and vital nutrients like iron, Vitamin A and folic acid before, during, and after pregnancy to ensure that their children are well-nourished right from the start at conception, preventing the irreversible damage caused by malnutrition.

The prosperity of a country and its future development can be vastly improved with greater attention to the first 1000 days. Malnutrition and stunted growth are associated with reduced school attendance and poor academic performance and stunted children are more vulnerable to infectious disease having an increased risk of dying from pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria. Stunted children become adults who are more overweight and suffer from chronic disease including diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease and often have lower incomes. Women affected by stunting deliver babies who are also likely to be afflicted by this preventable condition, perpetuating the cycle of malnutrition and poverty.

Failure to provide adequate food to the child in the womb and his or her mother violates international treaties including the Convention on the Rights of the Child which recognizes both the right of the child to adequate food and that state parties are obligated to combat malnutrition.

PNCI urges governments to demonstrate greater commitments and investments in the first 1,000 days of life to save the lives of both mothers and children thereby helping countries thrive and urges them to unite with businesses and private donors to provide nutrition programs during this critical period of development.

PNCI concurs with the perspective presented by the Lancet report Maternal and Child Nutrition that adolescent girls need to be prepared for their future role as mother by ensuring that they are well-nourished and that pregnant women and new mothers must receive interventions to prevent, reduce, or manage malnutrition including micronutrient powders and fortified foods, and sufficient vitamins and minerals.

PNCI supports efforts to encourage exclusive breastfeeding, the provision of appropriate, healthy foods for infants, the education of mothers on nutritious food choices for their young children, and the prevention and treatment of severe malnutrition throughout childhood.


1,000 Days

Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition

Improving Child Nutrition: The achievable imperative for global progress, UNICEF

Maternal and Child Nutrition, Lancet

Scaling Up Nutrition

Zero Hunger Challenge