For some, poverty begins at birth

When Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Michaél Martin, T.D., Ireland’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, co-hosted the session “Partnering to Reduce Child Undernutrition” at the MDGs, world leaders and international organizations were asked to start putting more of an emphasis on the vital 1,000-day nutrition window that starts from the moment of conception to the 2nd birthday of each child.
As Nicholas Kristof said in his New York Times column last week, the cycle of poverty in the developing world can start as soon as a child is conceived:

“Perhaps the most striking finding is that a stressful uterine environment may be a mechanism that allows poverty to replicate itself generation after generation. Pregnant women in low-income areas tend to be more exposed to anxiety, depression, chemicals and toxins from car exhaust to pesticides, and they’re more likely to drink or smoke and less likely to take vitamin supplements, eat healthy food and get meticulous pre-natal care.
The result is children who start life at a disadvantage — for kids facing stresses before birth appear to have lower educational attainment, lower incomes and worse health throughout their lives. If that’s true, then even early childhood education may be a bit late as a way to break the cycles of poverty.”

But there’s still hope. One of the five takeaways of the MDG Summit (from our very own Nora Coghlan) was the Summit’s signature initiative, the Global Strategy for Women’s and Children’s Health — a comprehensive plan to save the lives of 16 million mothers, newborns and children by 2015. MDGs Four and Five have been put at the top of the priority list for the final stretch leading up to 2015, and organizations, such as 1,000 Days are focusing specifically on the issue of maternal and early nutrition as a means to save millions of lives.