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UNICEF and the European Union collaborate to tackle desperately neglected problem of nutrition security in Asia

Nearly 4 million children to benefit from partnership in Indonesia alone

Bangkok/Jakarta, 6 January 2011 - Millions of children throughout Southeast and South Asia are not getting the nutrition they need for proper physical and mental development during childhood or to maximize their productivity as adults, according to UNICEF.  To help fight this, the European Union has just given a €20 million grant to UNICEF to tackle under-nutrition in the region.

The Maternal and Child Nutrition Security project will benefit the entire region but place special emphasis on Bangladesh, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Nepal and the Philippines; five countries in great needs and with potential for success.

More than a third of child deaths and 11 per cent of the total disease burden worldwide are due to maternal and child under-nutrition, according to data presented in a groundbreaking series on nutrition in The Lancet in 2008.

In Indonesia, four of every 100 babies born each year do not survive beyond their fifth birthday, often falling victim to diseases and illnesses that are exacerbated by poor nutrition;  one out of three children under the age of five is stunted and nearly one in five is underweight.

With the EU’s support, UNICEF will work with governments and partners in Indonesia to benefit 3.8 million children and 800,000 pregnant and lactating women.

"In spite of economic growth in several countries throughout the region, we still see rates of under-nutrition that are far too high."

Funds will be used to improve rates of breastfeeding through strengthened policies and legislation, train health workers on best infant and young child feeding practices, support screening and specialist care for undernourished children and strengthen community-based management of acute under-nutrition and micronutrient supplementation programmes.

“Unfortunately, it doesn’t necessarily follow that as an economy gets better, nutrition gets better – it’s not a direct link,” said France Begin, UNICEF Nutrition Advisor in Asia and the Pacific. “In spite of economic growth in several countries throughout the region, we still see rates of under-nutrition that are far too high.”

For years, under nutrition - manifested by a child with low height for age (stunting), low weight for age (underweight), low weight for height (wasting), and/or deficient in vitamins or minerals (micronutrient deficiencies) - has been a persistent problem, but one receiving little attention as well as lack of funding.

Increased attention to the link between under-nutrition and sustainable development led the EU to target maternal and child nutrition security, especially from conception to the first two years of life. The major grant is an important contribution to a multi-donor action, which should leverage gains for pooled resources.

The Maternal and Child Nutrition Security project aims to innovate and build on current policies and practices in countries and by doing so highlights nutrition as an Asian priority in the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.


For further information, please contact:
Edward Carwardine, tel: +62 21 2996 8140, email:



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