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Good nutrition critical to child health and development

UNICEF Marks World Food Day As Trucks and Choppers Carry Food Aid for Children to Remote Pakistan

NEW YORK, 15 October 2005 – UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman marked World Food Day by calling for increased focus on mother and child nutrition as the backbone of a healthy start in life.  She said ensuring that women and children are well-nourished is essential to helping reach the Millennium Development Goals, because sound nutrition is central to health, learning, and well-being.

“Malnutrition takes a devastating toll on children,” Veneman said.  “Some 10.6 million children die before the age of five every year, half of them due to causes related to malnutrition.”

Some 300 million children worldwide are malnourished and 27 per cent of all children under five are underweight for their age.  More than 60,000 women per year will not survive pregnancy because of vitamin and mineral deficiencies, and an estimated 18 million babies will be born mentally impaired. 

“Investing in good nutrition for women and children would be a tremendous spur to global development,” Veneman said.  “Good nutrition, especially in the first several years of a child’s life, offers massive returns in health, education and productivity.”

Safeguarding children’s nutrition is especially important in emergency situations, Veneman noted, because children weakened by poor nutrition are more vulnerable to the types of illnesses that spread quickly among displaced populations.

Disasters in countries where children are already living on or near the brink of malnutrition can quickly threaten child survival, she said. This scenario is a concern in Pakistan, where children in the hardest hit communities have gone days without proper food, water, shelter, or health care. 

UNICEF announced that it will have five flights loaded with high-protein biscuits for children landing in Pakistan over the weekend.

Since its inception in 1946, UNICEF has been working with governments, partners and communities to help nourish millions of children, day by day and for a lifetime.  Devoting more than half its budget to early childhood, UNICEF programmes feed underweight children, provide essential micronutrient supplements, promote maternal and newborn health, support exclusive breastfeeding,  offer infant-feeding counselling and advocate with governments to  protect children’s right to good nutrition. During emergencies UNICEF is always one of the first on the ground to meet the nutritional needs of children, saving lives and speeding recovery.

For more information, please contact:

Alfred Ironside, UNICEF NY, Tel: (212) 326-7261





15 October 2005: On World Food Day, UNICEF calls on the international community to recognize access to food as a basic right for every child.

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