Survive and thrive

More than basic survival – we're working to see children thrive in Malaysia.

Two children eating
UNICEFMalaysia/2019/Nooraini

What is the challenge?

Did you know that the first 1000 days of a child’s life is the most important for his/her well-being? We like to call it the brain’s ‘window of opportunity’ to grow to be the best it can. While the human brain continues to develop and change throughout life, the most rapid period of brain growth is in the last trimester of pregnancy and the first two years of life.

This means that up until a child’s second birthday, it will be more important than ever for him/her to get nutritious food, loving care, and learning aids to kick-start brain development.

Yet in many countries, both mothers and children do not receive the nutrition and care they need to take advantage of this fertile time.

Data from National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) in Malaysia indicated that the instances of stunting among children between 12-23 months has increased over the last decade from 8.9% in 2006 to 17.0% in 2016. Data from NHMS 2016 also shows that wasting (11.6%) amongst children between 12-23 months remains a high public health concern based on to World Health Organization (WHO) threshold. Overall 8.2% of infants under 6 months were reported overweight and 10.9% were wasted in Malaysia (NHMS, 2016).

info on stunting and wasting
UNICEFMalaysia/2019/DChai

But the problem doesn’t end there. Malaysia has a unique ‘double burden’: stunting and wasting on the one hand but also obesity on the other. Both are incidentally caused by unhealthy diet. 

Malaysia is known for its diverse food and most of us are not aware of the impact of our food choices. Many times, we feed our children unhealthy food. For a child to be able to survive and grow healthy, nutrition is a key requirement. However, we may not be making the best choices at the moment.

 

How can we fix this?

Sometimes, even when we want to do better for ourselves, we may be hampered by our environment. Perhaps healthy food is not easily accessible where we live or is too expensive to be purchased daily. We need the government to step in.

UNICEF focuses on policy that impacts children. In Malaysia, our work is centered around enhanced child and adolescent wellbeing, and thus, we work with the Malaysian government to study and find solutions to problems affecting children. Nutrition is no different.

These are just some of the things we will be working on to help Malaysia achieve its nutrition goals in line with the National Nutrition Policy.

  • Adoption of a mandatory national law on the International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes
  • Development of national policies and guidelines to improve adolescent wellbeing
  • Generation of nutrition data and technical support to improve current data
  • Promotion of healthy eating amongst Malaysians

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