Right to Invest in Nutrition
UNICEF Global Director of Programmes Highlights Importance of Nutrition as Foundation for Sustainable Development
Kigali, Rwanda: November 22, 2011: At the opening of Rwanda’s Second National Summit on Nutrition, Dr. Nicholas Alipui, UNICEF’s Global Director for Programmes, congratulated the country for keeping nutrition high on its national agenda and underscored what needs to be done across nations to secure optimal child development.
“If we could identify, invest in, and mobilize our best talent and resources to secure nutrition as a foundation for national development,” said Dr. Alipui, “we could eliminate stunting and ensure good nutrition for all children. We could build the strongest possible foundation for equitable development – for all children, for all our countries and we could use this basis for a lifetime of good growth, development, improved learning and productive capacity,” he added.
His remarks were made during the inauguration of the two-day summit, organized by the Ministry of Health, to review progress and lessons learned in the fight against malnutrition. Other key note speakers included the UN Resident Coordinator, the Director of USAID and the Ministry of Agriculture.
Malnutrition was highlighted as a key national priority by the President of Rwanda in 2009. His call to action resulted in the active identification and treatment of more than 63,000 cases of moderate malnutrition and 17,000 cases of severe acute malnutrition and led to the first national Nutrition Summit and the subsequent development of district plans to eliminate malnutrition.
Rwanda’s commitment to eliminating chronic malnutrition among children under 5 (currently at 44%) is clear. Today, all of the country’s 30 districts have such plans, but the challenge, according to Alipui is to integrate nutrition within the district’s overall development plan and not have separate plans just to promote nutrition. According to him, prevention of malnutrition and stunting in children requires policies, programmes, interventions and social change that extend beyond the health sector.
Prevention requires changing attitudes related to feeding practices, bringing together a broad range of ministries and partners in innovative ways, looking at early childhood development, ensuring linkages with the agricultural sector, social protection and water and sanitation programmes and promoting the empowerment of women and communities.
“The time to act is now,” emphasized Alipui. “There is global momentum around nutrition and we have solid evidence from a number of countries that investing in nutrition – with a focus on the most disadvantaged - leads to tangible results,” he added.
Rwanda hopes that its Second National Nutrition Summit, which brings together some 200 national and international participants, including participants from each of the country’s 30 districts, technical experts and a broad range of government representatives from the ministries of Health, Finance, Agriculture and Local Government, will set the stage for concerted action throughout the country to prevent stunting amongst children.
For more, visit the Second National Nutrition Summit website