Iraq launches first ever national nutrition strategy
Strategy sets a 10 year vision and plan to improve the nutritional status of all Iraqis, especially children
In an effort to improve the nutrition and health of Iraq’s 33 million people, today the Ministry of Health launched its first ever national nutrition strategy.
“Improved nutrition should not be seen as a single sector activity but on the contrary, it should be an important objective of all health and development programme activities,” said his Excellency Dr. Majeed Hamad Amin, Iraq’s Minister of Health. “This strategy gives us a clear vision and plan of how to improve the nutritional status of all Iraqis over the next 10 years.”
The strategy focuses on a number of goals, including: increasing political commitment and inter-sectoral collaboration on nutrition between different ministries within the Government of Iraq; reviewing and updating national policies and legislations to ensure nutritional outcomes are factored into them; and reducing the prevalence of wasting and stunting - the irreversible outcome of chronic nutritional deficiency during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life – from 21% to less than 10% by 2021.
“The damage stunting causes to a child’s development is permanent; that child will never learn, nor earn, as much as he or she could have if properly nourished in early life,” said Dr. Marzio Babille, UNICEF’s Representative to Iraq.
“By more than halving the rate of stunting over the next 10 years, the lives of hundreds of thousands of Iraqi children, particularly those who are most marginalized, will be provided with greater opportunities as young productive citizens of the new Iraq. High level attention should now be devoted to those children who fall behind because of insufficient or inappropriate nutrition," Dr. Babille added.
The strategy also prioritizes promoting healthy nutrition practices at the community level as well as reducing the prevalence of micronutrient deficiencies.
“Scaling up interventions that educate mothers and families on breastfeeding, infant and young child feeding and other beneficial health practices in addition to delivering micronutrient programmes, will prevent the loss of millions of dollars in productivity and avoidable health care spending. Furthermore, national nutritional strategies and policies are important and effective tools in ensuring national action for nutritional issues” said Dr. Syed Jaffar Hussain, the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Representative to Iraq.
In addition, the strategy emphasizes ensuring the availability and utilization of adequate food to all age groups at any time.
“Providing access to quality food to all Iraqis and targeted nutrition interventions, especially for the most vulnerable and malnourished young children and women, will yield major progress in terms of Iraq’s overall human and economic development,” said the World Food Programme’s (WFP) Deputy Representative to Iraq, Ute Meir. “The fight for good nutrition deserves priority attention by all.”
The development of the national nutrition strategy, which started in late 2009, was led by the National Food and Nutrition Committee within the Ministry of Health with technical expertise and guidance provided by the United Nations, notably UNICEF, WHO, WFP and the Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO).