How do we talk about the age of a child? Often in years, 3-year old, 4-year old, 5-year old. When they are younger we may use months, ‘she is 18 months old.’ It is only when they baby is at its most precious and most vulnerable that we use days to describe the age of the infant. Perhaps it is because to an infant, each day is significant. It is a day of life, learning, new experiences and a day of survival. At Beyond 5 we believe these most precious days extend from zero to one thousand.
The first one thousand days, marking the time from conception to the child’s second birthday, not only sets up a child to live beyond five, but also for a lifetime of health, learning and contributions.
A recent Lancet series on nutrition includes research that shows the first one thousand days of a child’s life is critical on many levels.
- Pregnant women who are undernourished are more likely to die in pregnancy or give birth to their children prematurely.
- Newborns of undernourished mothers have stunted physical and cognitive development during their first two years of life
- Undernourished children during the first one thousand days are more susceptible to infectious diseases, are out of school more and have lower cognitive abilities. As a result, undernutrition can significantly impede a country’s economic growth and productivity
“Countries will not be able to break out of poverty or sustain economic advances when so much of their population is unable to achieve the nutritional security that is needed for a healthy and productive life”
The good news is that there are effective interventions for mothers and children during this time. They are not expensive and their impact is far reaching.
One factor often forgotten in malnutrition is water. Water is essential for growing and preparing food and in preventing diarrheal disease, which often contributes to malnutrition, among other things. The first one thousand days is affected by many things, and water is a critical piece. Help us start the conversation and give children the best start possible by speaking up for clean water now [this action has expired].