Mr Palm's speech during the launching of the communication campaign “New and Better ways for infant and young child feeding” - MDGF Nutrition on 16 March 2012
I will divide my remarks in two parts. First, I will talk about the problem and then a solution. Or, as we are in the Ministry of Health, I first talk about the disease, and then the cure.
Stunting is a condition when children are too short, when they do not well intellectually or emotionally. Stunting is the outcome of chronic nutritional deficiency during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. The damage to a child’s development is permanent. A stunted child will never learn as much, nor earn as much as he or she could have if properly fed in the first three years. Stunting cannot be treated. But it can be prevented – at relatively little cost.
Malnutrition is associated with about one-third of child deaths in Albania.
At the current prevalence of malnutrition in Albania, the burden on the national economy may total 100 million Dollar annually. Albania is losing 100 million Dollar every year, because children do not get properly fed. For every dollar invested in improving children's nutrition, Albania will get four Dollar in return, in terms of better productivity. If we consider that not everything requires cash, then we can achieve a return of 16 Dollar for each dollar that Albania invests in the nutrition of her children.
Economic growth has improved the overall nutrition status in Albania, but malnutrition is still there. There is enough international research to show that economic growth is not enough. Direct multi-sector nutrition interventions are required. If we want to prevent stunting, it needs a change in how many families feed their children, what they feed, how often they do it, and so on. And these families need all our support.
Now the cure. The communication campaign.
UNICEF , and WHO, FAO are glad to support a strategic communication plan approved by the Minister of Health, for new and better ways for infant and young child feeding. These interventions are part of the Joint Programme on Nutrition financed by the Spanish fund for achievement of MDGs.
I am not a communication specialist, I only hold speeches. But I have been absolutely impressed by the top research conducted by the authorities, on who knows what, and how people behave towards their children, and what they talk about, and where they get their information from. I also think we have a top communication strategy, which will employ the most modern techniques including the internet, Facebook, YouTube, Television, Radio talk shows , and other mass media for the general population. It will improve the knowledge and skills of health professionals. And over and over again, interpersonal communication within the communities, because the most powerful communication happens when we talk to each other.
All this is not meant to sell something. It goes beyond sharing of information and raising awareness. It is about changing behavior. It is about role modeling, and providing support to those who want to do better. Health staff, grandmothers, mothers-in law and parents of children will be involved.
So we are all part of the cure: media professionals, medical professionals, teachers, parents, neighbors. This is a publicity event and I want to address the media in particular. You need to help to spread the information, and model the correct behavior. You heard what this is about: it is about lifelong damage for children who may get malnourished, and it is about 100 of millions of dollar of economic losses. We all can help to avoid this.