Investing in child nutrition - investing in the future
TASHKENT, Uzbekistan, 2 June 2010. – Representatives of the Government, health institutions, development agencies, food manufacturers and other stakeholders met today to review progress in the implementation of the National Nutrition Investment Strategy and discuss the way forward. The meeting was convened by the Ministry of Health of Uzbekistan with UNICEF support.
The national Nutrition Investment Strategy (NIS) was developed by the Government, Ministries and other state agencies of Uzbekistan jointly with UNICEF, the World Bank and other national and international stakeholders in February 2009. The strategy promotes an integrated, comprehensive and high-impact package that addresses micronutrient deficiencies mitigation among the population, especially children and women.
Proper nutrition is crucial for a healthy development of children and beneficial to their mothers, families and society. Yet, in Uzbekistan, micronutrient deficiencies of iodine, iron, vitamin A, folic acid and other micronutrients are common and cause various disorders. A low level of exclusive breastfeeding and improper practices in the nutrition of children and pregnant women result in high levels of microelement deficiency affecting early childhood development negatively. In the long run, lack of microelements impacts the population’s health, life expectancy and quality of life.
UNICEF has been working with the Ministry of Health and other relevant partners to improve the nutritional value of food and ensure proper practices for children’s feeding. Support is provided to law and policy development on nutrition and food security.
In recent years, UNICEF supported programme interventions on infant and young child feeding, micronutrients supplementation, such as Vitamin A and supports flour fortification, universal salt iodization, and exclusive breastfeeding promotion. High level international consultants are engaged to support the Nutrition Strategy through research, policy review and gap analysis, and provision of comprehensive recommendations on accelerating implementation of NIS.
According to MICS 2006, only 53% of the households consume iodized salt, close to 60% of 1st grade flour manufactured in Uzbekistan is fortified (“Uzdonmakhsulot”). The law of universal salt iodization was enacted in 2007 and another law on micronutrient deficiencies is awaiting Senate’s approval.
However, much remains to be done in the country for sustainable elimination of micronutrient deficiencies. There is a need to improve coordination of all stakeholders with varied interests and integrate the National Nutrition Investment Strategy into broader Government programmes to leverage resources. Strengthening advocacy with policy and law makers on the cost-effectiveness of micronutrient supplementation and increasing public awareness on the importance of balanced nutrition remains another challenge.
"Full coverage of exclusive breast feeding would have the biggest impact, reducing child mortality by 9 %. Universal coverage of iodization of household salt would result in annual economic gains of 9 billion sums. Addressing the chronic malnutrition by quality complementary feeding, timely treatment of diarrhoea and zinc supplementation would produce annual gains of 61 billion sums. These are simple low cost high impact interventions, which families need to be aware and practice, " stressed UNICEF Representative in Uzbekistan Jean Michel Delmotte addressing the gathering.
It is expected that today’s stakeholder meeting will help reinforce commitments of the involved parties and map out an action plan on the accelerated implementation of the National Nutrition Investment Strategy.