The First Thousand Days | Nathan Wilson
If anyone who has ever studied US Politics, you will have often come across a term called ‘the first hundred days’. This is in reference to for many arguably the most important period for an US President’s administration. This is because it is crucial for the setting of an agenda and achieving as much of it as possible before other factors arise. Such ideas are often reflected in the business world under an individual’s leadership, where the first hundred days sets the tone for the rest of an individual’s tenure.
Likewise, I would argue that there is a comparable concept that I think should be brought to attention: ‘The First Thousand Days’ (FTD). When a child is born (starting during its conception), the most crucial period for their development is that of the FTD, as it helps determine a healthy start for the rest of their days.
As it has been noticed recently, we are looking at a combination of factors that have ranged from the Covid-lockdowns, these consequent effects on the global economy, and the Russo-Ukraine War. All these things combined means we are looking at the certainty of widespread worldwide famine, starting most likely this autumn. Subsequently, it is important to investigate how this will affect millions of people’s FTD’s.
The most important thing that matters for children during their FTD is that of nutrition, and with global famine on the way, there is going to be a massive reduction in that nutrition for these children. As of 2013, according to UNICEF: “at least 200 million children living in developing countries fail to meet their developmental potential”. The driving factor behind this is a direct lack of nutrition that these individuals can receive during this period.
1000 Days have “estimated 149 million children under age five are developmentally stunted as a result of chronic malnutrition in the first 1,000 days, with another 49 million suffering the ravages of acute malnutrition”. This only reflects the work done by UNICEF and other organisations, nevertheless showing the scale these issues pose to global human development security. Sadly, this is not including the 3.1 million children who die every year from malnutrition, which works out to be on average 8,500 children a day, pre-Covid.
One of the core results of malnutrition during FTD, for young children, is a substantial drop in brain development. For Morris, Cogill and Uauy, the critical period of brain development remains vital to fix and subsequently help future human development. As such, if corrected with the nutritional deficits alone, could be estimated to have the equivalent of raising the entire planet’s IQ by 10 points.
Alongside this, the common form of nutritional deficiency in the world is that of Iron. This, for UNICEF, means “globally, an estimated 47% (293 million) of all preschool-aged children and 42% (56 million) of all pregnant women are anemic, with approximately half attributable to iron deficiency” in 2013. For the FTD, brains require iron for proteins that help develop brain functions like “regulate myelin production, neurotransmitter synthesis, and neuronal energy production”.
According to a journal paper on childhood development, the previous brain processes actually support the ability for the brain’s speed alongside other factors like memories, learning. Additionally, reported reduced functions within infants that had iron deficiency anemia, compared with infants without such issues, show increased mental impairment and other major problems.
With famine on the horizon, one might see how the upcoming problems will only produce generations of underdeveloped humans, besides those that inevitably pass away due to starvation. This is alongside how important the FTD is not just for an individual child but the world at large, something that after generations of hard work, will now sadly go away in the space of a couple of years.
I must admit, the longest I have ever been without eating was in Peru when I got very ill. I went nearly five days without eating upon recommendation to starve the stomach virus I had contracted. I do not say this lightly. I would not wish starvation on any living soul, let alone a new-born child. It is because of this; I feel it would be of great importance to bring awareness of the importance of FTD’s and its implications going forward. In truth, the implications for this are too numerous to consider, a known unknown of nature, for which most likely only cause unintended consequences onto much of the developing world.
In conclusion, as we are entering unexplored waters around the world. Author Bret Stetka wrote a book last year found here, which explored just how the human brain developed over time and its importance into now. As such, I think it prudent to start to understand; A) just how important global human development is, and B) How vital global food supplies are and the effects they will have on many children’s FTDs.