UNICEF explains the importance of ending child under-nutrition
UNICEF has stated that ending child under-nutrition is critical to achieving virtually all Millenium Development Goals (MDGs) by 2015
UNICEF has appealed for the inclusion of nutrition security as an essential element of every national development plan, indicating that nutrition security is as critical as clean water and as indispensable as education. It considers this to be a cornerstone to achieving the Millennium Development Goals by the target date of 2015.
UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake, said nearly 20 million children under the age of five around the world are afflicted with severe acute malnutrition, which can lead to various undernutrition diseases. It has been estimated that approx 170-180 million children worldwide are have stunted growth.
" For far too long, this silent emergency has received far too little attention," said Lake, who is in Uganda to attend the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU) Assembly.
" But thanks to the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement and the leadership of many governments, the global community has begun to see that nutrition is – and must be – more than a footnote in the food security debate."
In Uganda, national figures indicate that 33% of children under the age of 5 are stunted, while the combined effects of stunting, anaemia and low birth weight cost the country an estimated USD$ 310 million every year. "Stunting" (or "stunted growth") occurs when a child is deprived of critical nutrients at any time from his or her mother's pregnancy up to his or her second birthday. It can result in permanent, irreversible damage to a child's development and greatly reduces his or her capacity to learn in school, or earn a good living as an adult. The problem of child under-nutrition therefore perpetuates the cycle of poverty.
Lake met with Ugandan Prime Minister, Amama Mbabazi, to discuss the country's nutrition situation and the urgent need to accelerate nutrition interventions to reduce stunting and malnutrition generally. At the meeting, Lake expressed UNICEF's commitment to work with the Ugandan Government on improved mother-child nutrition programmes, provide essential supplies such as Vitamin A supplements and ready-to-use therapeutic foods, and to train more community workers to feed children well and keep them healthy. Lake also met with First Lady and Minister for Karamoja Affairs, Janet Museveni, to discuss the situation in Karamoja sub-region, where indicators are much lower than national averages and where the arid terrain directly affects nutrition and food security. In response, the First Lady praised the continued partnership between her Ministry and UNICEF in prioritizing the most vulnerable.
UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake also interacted with young people at the Treasure Life Youth Centre in the Kamwokya slum area, where he also observed local children using the "Digital Drum" – a rugged, solar-powered computer kiosk designed by a UNICEF-led team which enables children in rural and disadvantaged communities in Uganda to access information. The "Digital Drum" was voted by Time Magazine as one of the best inventions of 2011.
" We believe innovations can help accelerate our progress for children, using new technology and new ideas such as the Digital Drum and MobileVRS, to reach the hardest to reach communities and the most vulnerable children, mothers and families to improve access to basic services," said Lake.