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Malawi launches a movement to end stunting

29 July, 2011: Lilongwe, Malawi – Malawi has launched a movement aimed at scaling up efforts to fight malnutrition in children. The movement was launched by Malawi’s first lady, Madam Callista Mutharika under the theme “Unite to end stunting”. Madam Callista Mutharika described the launch as a stepping stone for Malawi’s progression towards reducing malnutrition.

“The President of Malawi is committed to fighting malnutrition. This is why he is the Minister responsible for Nutrition and HIV Aids. Personally, I am committed and will ensure that action is taken at all levels to ensure the smooth implementation of the movement’s activities at all levels.” Noted the first lady.

A key document, the National Nutrition Education and Communication Strategy for preventing child stunting in Malawi was launched at the event and will support the implementation of the movement.

The Scale Up Nutrition (SUN) 1000 special days initiative is an emerging worldwide drive to increase investment and the scope of action in Nutrition as a key to the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals.

The goal of the SUN 1000 Special Days Movement is to eliminate stunting in Malawi by focusing on a child’s first 1000 days. A child’s first 1000 days are critical as they lay the foundations that determine whether the children can achieve their full potential for cognitive development. Stunting – a condition whereby children are too short for their age is caused by insufficient nutrient intake in the first 1000 days of a child’s life.

The UN Special envoy on Food and Nutrition, Mr. David Nabaro speaking through a video link, congratulated Malawi for being one of the first countries in the world to launch the movement.

“Malawi is an early riser, being the one first countries in the world to launch this movement. This shows the political commitment towards fighting malnutrition.” The UN envoy urged Malawi to build on progress made in order for the movement to be a success.

Speaking at the launch, the SUN Convener Representative Dr. Vincent O’Neil said the movement will address problems arising from Malnutrition. He explained that for the initiative to be a success there is need to sustain commitments and political will. “We need to focus on a small number of programmes that have been seen to work for us to make progress. We also need to reach out to a much broader group of actors.”

Currently, UNICEF, Irish Aid, USAID, FAO and WFP are the key partners working with government of Malawi in scaling up nutrition. UNICEF has been part of the conceptualisation process and will play a key in rolling the movement out to the districts to ensure that the most vulnerable are reached.

Although Malawi has made progress in reducing many forms of malnutrition, the rate of stunting is at 47.8 percent according to the 2010 DHS Survey. The World Bank has estimated that countries with high levels of stunting and micro nutrient deficiencies suffer a drag on their productivity and the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) lowers between two and three percent annually. When compounded over the generations, the impact on economic growth is huge.

At the launch there were public declarations by Traditional leaders, Parliament, Private Sector, Medical Practitioners, teachers, religious leaders, development partners and the government committing to play an active role in reducing stunting in Malawi.

View a photo essay on Childhood Malnutrition



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