|A malnourished baby is fed therapeutic milk via a syringe and tube at a UNICEF-assisted feeding centre in the Karare displacement camp in Nyala, the capital of South Darfur.|
By Kun Li
NEW YORK, USA, 6 June 2007 – An estimated 181 million children were underweight in 1990, at that time accounting for nearly one third of all children under the age of five in the developing world. Since then, the number has dropped sharply to 149 million.
Although the results are significant, the rate of progress will have to be stepped up significantly in order to achieve Millennium Development Goal 1 – halving the number of people who suffer from hunger by 2015.
This was the conclusion presented at the third day of the UNICEF Executive Board’s annual meeting in New York, which focused on the challenge of ending child hunger and undernutrition.
Nutrition and development
“We have a long way to go,” said UNICEF Director of Programmes Alan Court. “The rate of progress has to double in the remaining years up to 2015, compared to the period from 1990 to 2005. In other words, the number of underweight children has to come down to less than 96 million if we are come anywhere close to reaching the 2015 goal.
“This is a considerable effort, and to reach that target, this has to be done,” Mr. Court stressed, adding that improved nutrition is critical to reducing mortality and aiding development in poor countries.
“Some 50 per cent of cognitive deficits of children entering school are related to micronutrient deficiency,” he said. “Similarly, around 53 per cent of under-five mortality is also associated with malnutrition. What I am showing here is the inter-relationships of these different elements.
“Good nutrition is really one of the best indicators of positive development outcomes,” Mr. Court concluded.
UNICEF and WFP joint initiative
To combat child hunger and malnutrition, UNICEF and World Food Programme spearheaded a global partnership beginning in 2006. The Ending Child Hunger and Undernutrition Initiative (ECHUI) aims to mobilize attention and action on the immediate causes of the problem.
The initiative also supports the development of national and community efforts to address the critical nutritional needs of millions of children and their families.
“ECHUI is really to capture people’s attention,” said Mr. Court, “and to help countries make it a priority in their national policies.”
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