Mr Palm's talking points during the launching of the competition "10 mothers of the year" in the frame of communication for behavior change campaign "New and better ways for infant and young child feeding" on 18 July 2012
The national burden of disease, under-nutrition, ill health and illiteracy and many other protection issues are concentrated among children from the most impoverished populations. The damage to a child’s development is permanent. A malnourished child will never learn as much, nor earn as much as he or she could have if properly fed in the first three years. The result is millions of dollars of economic losses for a country.
The Demographic and Health Survey and other recent studies indicate that in spite of considerable improvements in health and nutrition of Albanian children, major disparities exist in the death rate of infants’ children under five. Higher than above-average death rates and malnutrition is concentrated among children living in rural remote areas and poor families. The effects of stunting – that is when there has been chronic malnutrition – cannot be treated. But stunting can be prevented – at relatively little cost.
Prioritizing the poorest and most marginalized communities is crucial to achieving the Millennium Development Goals and other international agreements. There is plenty of international research to show that economic growth is not enough. Problems of malnutrition and stunting are not going to go away by themselves. Direct multi-sector nutrition interventions are required.
A global UNICEF study shows that adopting an equity-based approach, and providing children from the poorest and most marginalized communities with essential services can greatly accelerate progress. This is what UNICEF wants to do, and what we encourage all our partners to do as well.
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. UNICEF , WHO, and FAO are supporting the Ministry of Health communication plan for new and better ways for infant and young child feeding. This is part of the Joint Programme on Child Nutrition financed by the Spanish Government.
The communication strategy and activities have been developed after researching the knowledge and habits of Albanian parents. The campaign uses multiple and innovative ways to reach our target groups. These include television, radio, talk shows, internet, facebook. We know that inter-personnel communication is most important, as are role models.
The competition to find the 10 best mothers of the year encourages wide participation of mothers in the discussion on what are the best feeding practices. It favors sharing of positive examples between regular persons over lecturing.
But this makes us all part of the initiative. Medical professionals, media professionals, teachers, grandmothers, mothers in law, parents, are essential to ensure a sustained change in how we feed our children. We need to work together on this.
This is about lifelong damage for children who are at risk of malnutrition. It is about millions of dollar of economic loss if these children cannot develop to their full potential and into productive European citizens.
Let’s work together on this.