The State of the World's Children: Focus on Nutrition

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Foreword

To look into some aspects of the future, we do not need projections by supercomputers. Much of the next millennium can be seen in how we care for our children today. Tomorrow's world may be influenced by science and technology; but more than anything, it is already taking shape in the bodies and minds of our children.

In The State of the World's Children 1998, UNICEF -- the only United Nations agency dedicated exclusively to children -- spells out a simple but most pressing truth. Sound nutrition can change children's lives, improve their physical and mental development, protect their health and lay a firm foundation for future productivity.

Over 200 million children in developing countries under the age of five are malnourished. For them, and for the world at large, this message is especially urgent. Malnutrition contributes to more than half of the nearly 12 million under-five deaths in developing countries each year. Malnourished children often suffer the loss of precious mental capacities. They fall ill more often. If they survive, they may grow up with lasting mental or physical disabilities.

This human suffering and waste happens because of illness -- much of it preventable; because breastfeeding is stopped too early; because children's nutritional needs are not sufficiently understood; because long-entrenched prejudices imprison women and children in poverty.

The world knows what is needed to end malnutrition. With a strong foundation of cooperation between local communities, non-governmental organizations, governments and international agencies, the future -- and the lives of our children -- can take the shape we want and they deserve, of healthy growth and development, greater productivity, social equity and peace.

Kofi A. Annan

Secretary-General of the United Nations

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