BAKU, 14 April 2015 - A joint report released today by the United Nations Children’s Fund in Azerbaijan and the Ministry of Health shows progress has been made in recent years in most nutrition indicators for children.
The National Nutrition Survey was conducted between February and April, 2013 by UNICEF in partnership with the Ministry of Health of the Republic of Azerbaijan and the State Statistical Committee of Azerbaijan, to assess the nutrition and health status of children, non-pregnant women, and pregnant women. 3,926 household interviews were successfully completed as part of the survey. In total 3351 women and 1455 children participated in the survey.
The survey showed positive progress in most nutrition indicators for children in comparison with previous researches. Stunting rate among children aged 0-59 month declined from 25.1% (Demographic Health Survey 2006) to 18% in 2013, wasting from 6.6% (DHS 2011) to 3.1% and underweight from 6.5% (DHS 2011) to 4.9%. Only 10% of observed children had zinc deficiency and 8% vitamin A deficiency. Anemia prevalence among children aged 0-59 declined from 44.4% (DHS 2011) to 24.2%.
Along with the achievements the survey indicates areas where efforts are needed to reach better nutritional results for children and women. High prevalence of anemia among pregnant and non-pregnant women as well as children remains an issue of high public concern. 40% of pregnant and 38% of non-pregnant women were found to be anemic during the survey. Of anemic women, 62.8% were also iron deficient. 35% and 20% of non-pregnant women observed to have folate and Vit.B12 deficiency respectively.
“I would like to commend the Ministry of Health and the Government for efforts to improve the nutrition status of women and children, but at the same time remain hopeful that adequate measures will be taken to eliminate anemia and improve exclusive breast feeding practices,” said UNICEF Representative in Azerbaijan Andro Shilakadze.
“Anemia among pregnant women and luck of exclusive breast feeding are significantly contributing to morbidity and mortality of children. The world’s experience has proved that flour fortification with Iron is the most effective and cheapest way to combat iron deficient anemia and I believe Azerbaijan as a rapidly developing economy in the region will soon ensure that all flour is fortified with Iron and other lifesaving microelements to improve health of hundred thousands of women and children.”
Breastfeeding and complementary feeding practices need significant improvement. Only 12% of children under 6 months of age were exclusively breastfed, less than one half of children were still breastfeeding at 1 year of age. 54% of children 6-23 months were fed in accordance with minimum dietary diversity, 58% ate with enough frequency for their age and only 22% had a minimally acceptable diet. Various programmatic and research recommendations were developed based on findings from the survey. Fortification of wheat flour to improve iron status in the population and prevent future cases of deficiency and nutrition education campaigns for health care providers and parents based on guidelines and instructions developed by WHO and the Ministry of Health and aimed at improving infant and young child feeding were among the recommendations. Some recommendations deriving from the survey have already been reflected and will be addressed through State Programme for 2014-2020 on Improving Mother and Child Health in Azerbaijan.
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