By Chris Niles
NEW YORK, 17 September 2012—UNICEF Associate Director for Nutrition Werner Schultink outlined UNICEF’s nutrition work on the final day of the second regular session of the Executive Board.
|14 September 2012: UNICEF Executive Board President John Ashe issued a heartfelt plea for donors to continue to support UNICEF. Watch in RealPlayer|
The Executive Board also adopted seven decisions on the work of UNICEF, including nine new country programmes, its current finances and a roadmap towards an integrated budget in the future.
UNICEF’s work in fighting undernutrition
Mr. Schultink detailed UNICEF’s efforts in nutrition in countries such as Haiti, which has seen marked remarkable improvements in addressing undernutrition following the earthquake of 2010, and Ethiopia, which has established successful community-based nutrition programmes.
He further described how UNICEF works with global and national leaders providing technical expertise and data, which informs government policy on nutrition.
“Programming for nutrition provides immediate long-term opportunities for poverty alleviation,” he said. “Undernutrition contributes to a cycle of poverty, inequity and disease.”
UNICEF is a key participant in the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, a global coalition of public and private interests, of which Executive Director Anthony Lake chairs the Lead Group. So far, 28 countries have committed to the initiative.
Introducing Mr. Schultink’s report, Mr. Lake said if a child is not properly nourished in its first life-years it will become stunted, which means they are too short for their age.
The damage will be irreversible, he said, adversely affecting them for the rest of their adult lives and the society in which they live.
Although significant progress has been made in the past two decades, there are still about 170 million children under the age of five suffering from stunting; in several countries – many of them food-secure – more than 40 per cent of children are stunted.
“It’s a silent emergency affecting the poorest and the youngest,” Mr. Lake said. “A stunted child will never reach full cognitive capacity.”
He said that stunting could be effectively combatted for between $15 and $20 per child. “How can we afford not to make that investment?” he asked.
|14 September 2012: UNICEF Associate Director for Nutrition Werner Schultink addresses Executive Board on UNICEF's nutrition programmes. Watch in RealPlayer|
Exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life is one of the most effective and cheapest ways to ensure that a child gets the best possible start. Mr. Schultink reported on successful breast feeding programmes in Sri Lanka.
Yet worldwide, fewer than 40 per cent of children under the age of six months are exclusively breastfed, he said.
He told the Board that the critical period for preventing undernutrition is the first 1,000 days of life.
“This window presents immense long-term opportunities for poverty alleviation, human capital formation and sustainable development,” Mr. Schultink said.
Board President urges donors to support UNICEF
The second regular session was the first conducted on the PaperSmart model, in which documents were provided digitally and only printed on request.
Participants largely deemed the PaperSmart model a great success in reducing waste and unnecessary costs.
Many delegates, including representatives of the governments of Kenya and Canada, complimented the board on its initiative and encouraged UNICEF to work with other UN agencies to make the practice more widespread.
This session was the final one as Executive Board president for Ambassador John W. Ashe, the Permanent Representative of Antigua and Barbuda, who issued a heartfelt plea for delegates to continue to support UNICEF’s mandate, especially in these challenging times.
“Do not walk away from this organization,” he said. “Humanity, the most vulnerable among us, will suffer. UNICEF is indeed special and we should maintain it that way.”
Executive Director Anthony Lake thanked Ambassador Ashe for his service to UNICEF. “His focus, his discipline, his clarity, has made immense contributions to our meetings but even more his guidance, and his good dry humour, and his support will be very much missed,” he said.
UNICEF Executive Board 2012