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The right nutrition during this 1,000 day window has a profound impact on a child’s ability to grow, learn and thrive and a lasting effect on a country’s health and prosperity.

Nutrition during pregnancy and in the first years of a child’s life provides the essential building blocks for brain development, healthy growth and a strong immune system. In fact, a growing body of scientific evidence shows that the foundations of a person’s lifelong health—including their predisposition to obesity and certain chronic diseases—are largely set during this 1,000 day window.

It is why it is critical that women and children get the right nutrition during this time. Malnutrition early in life can cause irreversible damage to children’s brain development and their physical growth, leading to a diminished capacity to learn, poorer performance in school, greater susceptibility to infection and disease and a lifetime of lost earning potential. It can even put them at increased risk of developing illnesses like heart disease, diabetes and certain types of cancers later in life.

The impact of poor nutrition early in life has lasting effects that can transcend generations. This is seen throughout the world as malnourished women given birth to malnourished daughters who grow up to become malnourished mothers themselves, thereby perpetuating the cycle.

The damage done by malnutrition during the first years of a child’s life translates into a huge economic burden for countries, costing billions of dollars in lost productivity and avoidable health care costs. But by focusing on improving nutrition during the critical first 1,000 days, much of the serious and irreparable damage caused by hunger and malnutrition can be prevented.

Pakistan PAK