A Tribute to James P. Grant
The World Hunger Program learned with great regret of the death of James P. Grant on January 28 of this year. Executive Director of UNICEF for l5 years, Grant led the struggle to prevent food deprivation in children all over the world.
Under his leadership, UNICEF raised awareness that there were probably 40,000 preventable hunger-related child deaths each day. In response, he helped design and then tirelessly promote the GOBI strategy, which emphasized low cost and practical methods to protect and save children’s lives. GOBI-growth monitoring, oral rehydration therapy, breastfeeding, and immunization-became a way also to involve the community in public health and live-saving efforts. Over time, UNICEF added also the “F” goals-food for the mother and family planning-to better address the entire household context in which children were nurtured. In l99l, with WHO and governments around the world, UNICEF launched a campaign to end “hidden hunger,” micronutrient deficiencies of iodine, vitamin A, and iron. All are part of an ongoing “Child Survival and Development Revolution” that Grant oversaw, beginning in the l980s.
To build political support for children’s well-being, Grant also undertook unprecedented actions through the United Nations. He convened in l990 the World Summit for Children, which set measurable achievable goals in child nutrition and health for the middle and end of the decade. This followed the 1989 milestone, “Convention on the Rights of the Child” that declared the basic rights of children and state obligations for their protection. From the l980s, he published the annual report, The State of the World’s Children and tracked the progress of nations on nutrition and health worldwide. As wars in the last decades of the twentieth century threatened children’s lives, Grant had UNICEF intervene, insisting that children’s lives took precedence over particular issues of state sovereignty. In all of these actions, he pursued a course that he hoped might embarrass world leaders into better protecting the lives of children.
In l988-89, Brown University selected James Grant to receive the Alan Shawn Feinstein World Hunger Award. The award recognized his role in the child survival campaign that promised to halve by the end of the century the number of children who die needlessly every day. It also recognized Grant’s leadership in mobilizing the energies of private, grassroots development organizations in both developed and developing countries; and the major role Grant has played in the effort to redirect African relief efforts into activities favoring longer-term development. World Hunger Program activities, especially the Bellagio Declaration on Overcoming Hunger in the 1990s, have benefited from Grant’s optimistic vision and practical approaches.
With UNICEF, we mourn the passing of James Grant, as together we continue the activities that will achieve his vision to alleviate and prevent hunger of the world’s children.
Ellen Messer, Director, World Hunger Program