Poem: One Thousand Precious Days

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Concern’s Rwanda country director, Tilaye Nigussie, with a print out of his poem at the Rwanda National Nutrition Summit (Photo: Rwanda, Concern Worldwide)

I wrote this poem for the Rwanda Second National Nutrition Summit, which was held in Kigali from November 22-23, 2011. Much of the conference’s focus was on scaling up nutrition interventions to prevent irreversible physical and mental stunting during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. It is also the focus of my poem, “One Thousand Precious Days.”

I often write poems in Amharic (my native language) and English as a hobby, but I was compelled to write this particular poem because of the alarming state food security around the world and the growing interest among governments, policy-makers and donors to eliminate malnutrition. In Rwanda, I have seen remarkable progress in preventing malnutrition since 2009. This poem expresses my hope that the current coordinated movement to end child malnutrition will continue and scale-up so that all children have a healthy start to life, for their future as well as Rwanda’s.

One Thousand Precious Days   

         Precious for families

                  Precious for communities

                         Precious for the nation 

 We care about preventing and eliminating malnutrition

Because of its contribution

To improve the health of our population

And the development of our nation


We can move forward

In the path of prosperity

Maintaining our dignity

Growing enough food

Feeding our people 


Making food available and affordable

Healthy and nutritious

Complete with vegetables, proteins and vitamins

Is our long-term mission


For families to have enough and balanced meals

Let us keep increasing agricultural production

And link food security with nutrition interventions  


This is possible in Rwanda

Where, eliminating malnutrition is high on the national agenda

And the value of the 1000 precious days is sure to become a mantra

In schools, households and villages

Across the magnificent 1000 hills


During the 1000 precious days of a child’s life

As a foetus and until two years after birth

Proper nutrition and preventing infection

Are critical for balanced growth


Taking care of a mother during pregnancy

Needs to be given the at most priority

Along with breast and complementary feeding

For the young child to grow

For their future to glow

We value the 1000 precious days


In the fight against malnutrition

We need to look at the big picture

Across all development actors

In every district and sector

In every village and in each household

Of integration, synergy and impact

For the betterment of the infant


By making the 1000 precious days significant


For each child to be a leader tomorrow

It needs the opportunity to grow

Through proper education and health

Following the right path


Hence, appropriately feeding a child

Taking care of motherhood

Preventing infection

Giving proper care and attention

When life begins and flourishes

During the 1000 precious days


Winning the fight against malnutrition

Is right and just

To achieving our growth and development ambition

We must, therefore, do what we can

As individuals and as a nation

Making nutrition the priority of priorities

In policy, strategy and planning 

Remembering the 1000 precious days

With the coordinated services and efforts of all actors

At national, district and village levels

And the active participation of communities and families

We can prevent stunting, underweight and wasting


Looking back the path that we have travelled

How we have worked hard to succeed

To be where we are today

Building a better future for children and mothers

The pillars that sustain our progress


Working hard to keep our population healthy

To propel our vision and long journey   

We will continue to make nutrition

Our growth and development fountain


To eliminate malnutrition in our country

To assure every child develops and grows properly

By benefiting from the national multi-sector strategy

We will glorify life during the 1,000 precious days

In our beautiful country of a 1000 hills