Acting Deputy Administrator John Barsa’s Remarks at Nutrition for Growth Launch Event

Speeches Shim

Monday, December 14, 2020

Hello everyone, it’s a pleasure to join you all today.

I’d like to thank Global Affairs Canada and the Gates Foundation for hosting this event, as well as the country representatives joining us today: Honorable Karina Gould, Honorable Zahid Maleque, Keiichi Ono, and my fellow speakers and government representatives.

As we near the end of 2020, we continue to set our sights on accelerating recovery and rebuilding for resilience in a COVID-altered world. 2021 represents a make-or-break year for global nutrition.

We welcome this Nutrition for Growth Year of Action, which is essential to drive political will, policy, program commitments, and more investments to accelerate action grounded in evidence.

USAID has more than 50 years of leadership on nutrition, because of our fundamental role in ensuring children’s survival and positioning them for successful futures.

Nutrition has benefited from strong bipartisan support, with a unanimous Senate resolution earlier this year and a House resolution passed just last week.

However, considering that good nutrition is foundational to achieve our development goals, it remains grossly under-resourced.

This has come into stark reality during this pandemic, which has disrupted every system we rely on to deliver good nutrition.

As noted by earlier speakers, the maternal and child undernutrition projections released today show that we’re at risk of losing a decade of progress.

We encourage donors, governments, the private sector, and others to step up and prioritize action on nutrition and targeted investments as we rebuild economies.

At USAID, we have taken major steps to elevate nutrition across the Agency, starting with internal structural changes for us to engage all sectors on our nutrition strategy. This effort is led by our cross-bureau Nutrition Leadership Council, which is chaired by our first ever chief nutritionist. These structural changes allow us to provide Agency-wide guidance on nutrition in the context of COVID-19.

We applaud the leadership of other governments who are committed to investing in nutrition. I want to make a special mention of the Government of the United Kingdom, which initiated Nutrition for Growth back in 2013.

And to close with the words of Dr. Martin Forman, USAID’s pioneer leader on nutrition and our first nutrition programs director, “The task is huge. But the rewards are infinitely greater.”

All of us here today need to move forward in that spirit, so that the legacy of this pandemic does not become a generation of children who have lost their potential or lives to malnutrition. Together, we will make 2021 a year of action for nutrition.