World Food Prize winners helped reduce childhood stunting

July 9, 2018

Two men who advanced evidence-based policies that stress the economic and public health value of good early childhood nutrition have been named the 2018 World Food Prize winners.

The prestigious prize will be shared by Dr. Lawrence Haddad, a British economist and food policy researcher who serves as executive director of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, and Dr. David Nabarro, a professor at the Institute of Global Health Innovation at London’s Imperial College who has worked with the World Health Organization and United Nations on health and hunger issues.

The two men were recognized for their work in elevating childhood nutrition to a central issue in international discussions around food security. Their advocacy to improve nutrition for mothers and children during pregnancy and the first two years of life — the most critical time in a child’s development — is credited with inspiring others who collectively reduced the world’s number of stunted children by 10 million between 2012 and 2017.

Though Nabarro and Haddad never worked directly together, their programs and efforts were well-orchestrated. They will receive the $250,000 World Food Prize at the program’s Oct. 18 award ceremony at Des Moines, Iowa.

Haddad, who was driven by the harsh realities of his own childhood, used economic and medical research to show global leaders that improved nutrition can drive development.

“We really forged something that was compelling and hard to ignore,” Haddad noted. “We said if you ignore nutrition, you’re ignoring development. Kids entering the labor force malnourished will not do as well in school or in the labor market, they will not be entrepreneurial and you will not get this industrial transformation.”

Nabarro, who worked with the United Nations for more than 17 years, pulled together political leaders, representatives from the UN, government agencies, donor groups, nongovernment organizations to spread the message that malnourished children suffer permanent damage that reduces their ability to achieve their full potential.

“Political leaders all over the world picked up on it and found that investing in early child development and early nutrition is a great investment in their national future,” Nabarro said.

The World Food Prize was established by agricultural pioneer Norman E. Borlaug, who was awarded the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for a lifetime of work to feed a hungry world. The World Food Prize is awarded annually for a specific, exceptionally significant, individual achievement at any point along the full range of the food production and distribution chain.