Slow progress: UN children’s agency calls for action to combat childhood undernutrition


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Related tags Malnutrition

Stunting affects more than a quarter of babies born in developing world nations.
Stunting affects more than a quarter of babies born in developing world nations.
The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) has reiterated calls for more to be done to improve nutrition in the first 1000 days of life to reduce growth stunting that blights the lives of about 165m children worldwide.

UK and Brazil government officials met today in London today with the Children's Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) to coordinate actions to reduce the problem by 20m in the most affected countries by 2020.

“The battle against undernutrition is being won, but progress is too slow for too many,” ​said Werner Schultink, UNICEF’s head of nutrition.

“Our message is clear – that the time is now for all of us to demonstrate resolute leadership and steadfast commitment for the millions of mothers and children who still fall victim to undernutrition.”

The call backs those of other groups like the UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and The Lancet ​in the UK, which have this week said more needs to be done to battle undernutrition and malnutrition problems including obesity and overweight in both the developing and developed world.

Projects like Vitamin Angels and sightandlife engage with vitamin and nutrient suppliers to improve nutrition in the developing world via various micronutrient and other nutrition-improving projects and policy work.

In a series of articles it published this week, The Lancet ​said 3.1m children die annually from malnutrition, which is 45% of all under-5 deaths – and higher when the journal last published a malnutrition series in 2008.

Stunting affects more than a quarter of babies born in developing world nations.

UNICEF has published a report detailing the importance of adequate nutrition for mothers and their children called ‘Improving Child Nutrition: The achievable imperative for global progress’.

The report details challenges and successes and focuses on Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Nepal, Peru, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sri Lanka, Kyrgyzstan, the United Republic of Tanzania and Viet Nam. It can be downloaded here​.

UNICEF said policy stakeholders, medical professionals and the private sector in both the developing and developed worlds needed to work together to make effective changes.

“This is why the fight against undernutrition has to be a global imperative for donors, for affected countries, for innovators in the private sector and for communities themselves,”​ said Schultink.

“That's the sort of shared commitment we see in the Scaling up Nutrition Network (SUN), where 40 countries are already taking tangible steps to increase and better target investments and sharpen policies and nutrition-focused programmes.”

It is estimated that 80% of the 165m children suffering from stunting live in only 14 countries.

Successful actions have included the promotion of exclusive breastfeeding, addressing micronutrient deficiencies and improving maternal nutrition before and during pregnancy.

In 2010, UN secretary general Ban Ki-moon launched the Every Woman Every Child initiative in 2010 that sought save the lives of 16 million women and children, “by 2015 by mobilizing governments, multilaterals, the private sector and civil society to address the major health challenges facing women and children around the world, including poor nutrition.”

More than $10bn dollars has been committed by 260 partners to date.


SUN movement

The SUN Movement has 40 countries involves civil societies, the UN, donors, businesses and researchers. The SUN Business Network is co-chaired by the World Food Programme and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) and counts ingredient suppliers like Cargill and DSM as members.

Cargill vice chairman, Paul Conway, said of his company’s recent decision to join the SUN Movement: "Every year, we work directly with millions of farmers to help them grow more food more sustainably, reach more markets, receive fair pricing and improve their standards of living."

"We believe raising incomes in agricultural communities helps farmers and their families improve the quality of their diets, and we will continue to explore ways in which agricultural productivity can lead to better nutrition. In addition, many of our farmer training initiatives encompass broader social and community needs, such as nutrition and health education, improved children's education and improved access to safe drinking water.”

“We are pleased to be joining the SUN Movement in its vitally important work to reduce the unacceptably high numbers of malnourished children in the world."

An example of this work is SUN’s Flour Fortification Initiative which operates globally.

Cargill said it had given $55 million to reduce hunger and improve nutrition through partnerships with groups like SUN.

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