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EU provides Euro 3.2 million to UNICEF to tackle child and maternal undernutrition

Kathmandu, 07 January 2011 – The European Union is contributing a grant of €20 million to UNICEF to tackle under nutrition in five Asian countries where poor nutrition remains a major obstacle to development.

Nepal is amongst the five countries which will benefit from the EU-funded Maternal and Child Nutrition Security project. Together with Bangladesh, Indonesia, Lao PDR and the Philippines, Nepal was targeted as a beneficiary country because of its huge nutrition problems but also due to its significant potential for change.

Nepal is due to receive €3.2 million from the EU. This funding will be used to support a comprehensive package of measures to prevent and address malnutrition in the country where pervasive child and maternal under-nutrition threatens to derail national development progress.Indeed, approximately 1.7 million children, or nearly half of all children aged under-five in the country, are stunted or suffer from chronic malnutrition.

“This EU grant is very encouraging for Nepal at this time as it focuses very clearly on the first 1000 days of a child’s life – from conception to two years of age – which is an absolutely critical period,” said Ms. Gillian Mellsop, UNICEF Representative to Nepal. “For far too long the nutrition of pregnant women and of the under-twos has been neglected in Nepal and in South Asia as a whole. If we do not seize this opportunity it will simply be too late to make a lasting difference.”

Despite strong economic growth in recent years, South Asia continues to carry the bulk of the world’s undernourished mothers and children. The direct link between economic progress and under-nutrition, which has now been firmly established, has led the EU Commission to target maternal and child nutrition security especially from conception to the first two years of life.

Under-nutrition leads to higher death rates and higher levels of illness and poor performance and productivity at school and in the workplace. Consequently it drives down the economy and pushes up healthcare spending leading to massive economic losses.Preventing malnutrition by promoting good diet, iron supplementation for pregnant mothers, immediate and exclusive breastfeeding, and the right food at the right time for children at home and in the community, is seen as the best investment a country can make. Indeed, if children are not adequately nourished before the age of two when the "critical window of opportunity" closes, they lose their chance to thrive cognitively and physically.

During the four-year project, UNICEF will work with governments and partners targeting 30 million children and 5 million pregnant and lactating women in the five Asian countries and will promote good nutrition among policy makers, medical professionals and families.

For years, under-nutrition, manifested by a child with low height for age (stunting), low weight for age (underweight), low weight for height (wasting), and/or deficient in vitamins or minerals (micronutrient deficiencies), has been neglected due to lack of attention and funding. As a result rates of under-nutrition have remained persistently high.

In Nepal the EU grant will be used to support improved infant and young child feeding practices such as breast feeding and complementary feeding, prevention and management of severe malnutrition by boosting the ability of government staff at central, regional and district levels to address nutrition issues in the community.

For more information:
John Brittain: Chief of Communication, UNICEF Nepal, Tel: +977 1 5523200 x 1182

Sarah Crowe: Regional Chief of Communications, Media Hub UNICEF South Asia,
Tel: +91 1124606247 Email:

Ambar Mainali: Press & Information Officer, Delegation of the European Union to Nepal,
Tel: +977 1 4429445 Email:




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