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UN agencies welcome dawn of ‘SUN’ Movement in Myanmar

© UNICEF/MAMA2008-00002/SANDAR LINN

 Nay Pyi Taw, 6 February 2014 – In partnership with FAO, WHO, WFP and UNICEF, the Myanmar Government today launched the ‘Scaling Up Nutrition’ (SUN) Movement in Myanmar. In an attempt to tackle malnutrition - one of Myanmar’s biggest development challenges - in May 2013, the Myanmar Government signed onto the global SUN Movement as one of 46 current SUN countries.

Today’s launch brought together representatives from 14 government ministries, the United Nations (UN), development partners, civil society organisations and the private sector to reaffirm commitments to SUN in Myanmar. During a 2 ½ day workshop following the launch, participants will formulate a Myanmar SUN Implementation Plan aimed at accelerating implementation of the existing “National Plan of Action for Food and Nutrition” (2012-2016).

A third of all Myanmar children below five years of age are stunted with 8 per cent dangerously thin for their age. Stunting contributes to almost 15 per cent of child deaths each year. A child with wasting is nine times more likely to die than a well-nourished child. “Myanmar has the third highest malnutrition rates across South East Asia after Cambodia and East Timor”, said Mr Bertrand Bainvel, UNICEF Representative in Yangon and co-Chair of the Myanmar Nutrition Technical Working Group. “Today we welcome the Myanmar Government launching the global SUN Movement in country – this is an important step towards ending child malnutrition and better increasing the chances of all Myanmar children reaching their 5th birthdays,” he added.

Underlying causes of malnutrition in Myanmar include inadequate food, poor hygiene practices, limited access to safe water and basic health care services, and inappropriate infant and young child feeding practices. “Compounding this is “hidden hunger” - vitamin and mineral deficiencies among both women and children that often go unnoticed”, said Ms Bui Thi Lan, FAO Representative in Yangon. “We are working with the Myanmar Government cross-sectorally to ensure no-one misses out on the benefits of the SUN Movement. It will be important to ensure positive nutrition outcomes are enjoyed across Myanmar equitably”, she added.

Myanmar’s food and agriculture systems - including livestock and fisheries - determine the quantity, quality and diversity of food available for consumption. The efficiency of agricultural production, markets and trade in Myanmar in addition to agriculture and food policies shape the relative prices of different foods. At the same time, nutrition education influences knowledge, tastes and preferences. Currently in Myanmar, micronutrient deficiencies account for 4-6 per cent of all under-five deaths.

Poor nutrition affects Myanmar socially and economically. For example, if stunting were reduced by 10 per cent, two-thirds of children could complete primary school instead of half. “If all nutrition interventions combined achieved 99 per cent coverage, stunting could be dramatically reduced and the lives of some 10,000 Myanmar children could be saved annually,” said Dr Krongthong Thimasarn, WHO Acting Representative in Yangon.

Women and men affected by stunting earn 20-30 per cent less than those well-nourished in early childhood. “Nutrition interventions can result in as much as 46 per cent higher wages and dramatically improved livelihood outcomes with an estimated increase in GDP of at least 2-3 per cent,” said Mr Guillaume Foliot, representing WFP in Myanmar. “With today’s launch, the SUN has finally dawned on the nutrition sector in Myanmar and the future looks much clearer, much brighter,” he concluded. [Ends]

BACKGROUND
The global SUN Movement was launched in 2010 as an international initiative to address the continuing problem of child malnutrition. The UN Secretary-General (UNSG) has assigned SUN coordination to the Global Lead Group chaired by Anthony Lake (Executive Director of UNICEF) with a Secretariat led by David Nabarro, Special Representative of the UNSG for food security and nutrition.

In 2012, the Myanmar Nutrition Technical Network - a nutrition coordinating body led by the Myanmar Government and co-chaired by UNICEF - initiated work towards introducing the SUN Movement into Myanmar. The network - with UN, development partner (donors) and civil society membership - worked together to support the development of a multi-sectoral Myanmar Government plan - the “National Plan of Action for Food and Nutrition” (NPAFN) led by 14 ministries and updated in line with the SUN Movement framework in March 2013.

In March 2013, during a 4-day workshop at Nay Pyi Taw, all main stakeholders at the central and region/state levels, reached a consensus on the NPAFN - prepared with the technical assistance of FAO - mainstreaming most SUN Guiding Principles. The NPAFN points out the critical role food-based and nutrition-sensitive agricultural development plays in improving diet in terms of variety, diversity, nutrient content and food safety.

In May 2013 - when the Myanmar Government became a member of the global SUN Movement - the Director-General of the Myanmar Ministry of Health was assigned country focal person for SUN in Myanmar. Donors also committed to supporting the Myanmar SUN movement and assigned the UK Department for International Development as donor convenor. UN agencies and a large number of civil society organisations are contributing across the nutrition field and beyond in Myanmar in nutrition-sensitive sectors including health, water and sanitation, food security, agriculture, livelihoods development, education and protection.

Today’s SUN launch in Myanmar was opened by the Union Minister for Health, HE Professor Dr Pe Thet Khin with the participation of senior officials from across 14 ministries. The launch brought together key stakeholders from across government, the UN, development partners (donors), civil society and the private sector. The event was witnessed by a delegate of David Nabarro, Special Representative of the UNSG for food security and nutrition. Laos PDR and Indonesia shared SUN experiences and lessons learnt. The launch was followed by a 2 ½ day workshop on a Myanmar SUN Implementation Plan aimed at accelerating implementation of the existing NPAFN.

For more information please contact:

Kirsten Sjolander, Interim-in-Charge, Communication Section, UNICEF Myanmar, Tel: +95 9 421 177 294 (m), ksjolander@unicef.org.

Ye Lwin Oo, Communication Officer, Communication Section, UNICEF Myanmar, Tel: 09 511 3295 (m).

Daniela Demel, Reports and Public Information Officer, WFP Myanmar, Tel: +95 1 230 5971 Ext: 2421, Daniela.demel@wfp.org.

 

 
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