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Press release

Poor nutrition 'silent emergency' but preventable

Reaching most vulnerable is best investment

© UNICEF/NYHQ2011-0203/Holt
Children and women receive food at a distribution point organized by the World Food Programme near the port in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia.

ISTANBUL, 10 May 2011 -- Poor nutrition in the world’s least developed countries constitutes a silent emergency requiring a coordinated global response, UNICEF said today at the Fourth UN Conference on Least Developed Countries.
UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake told attendees of a special event co-hosted with the governments of Nepal, the United States and the World Food Programme that 195 million children under the age of five suffer from stunting, which is caused when a child is deprived of critical nutrition between the period of pregnancy and the first two years of life.  The condition results in irreversible damage to children’s physical and cognitive development, undermining school performance and reducing earning capacity, which in turn help to perpetuate the cycle of poverty in the world’s poorest countries.  But comparatively simple and cost-effective actions by governments can prevent this condition.
“It is time for the global community to recognize that nutrition is – and must be – more than a footnote in the food security debate,” said Lake.   “In fact, nutrition security should be an essential element of every LDC’s national development plans, as critical as clean water, as indispensable as education.” 
24 countries account for more than 80 percent of the global stunting burden.  Of those, 14 are LDCs.  In 7 countries, 50 percent or more of all children under five suffer from stunting.  The condition can be averted by simple solutions, including vitamin A, zinc and iron supplements, iodized salt, improved breastfeeding and child feeding practices.
At the LDC Conference, Lake also discussed the critical importance of using resources in more innovative ways to achieve more cost-effective results at a time of continued global financial constraint and cuts in funding.
“We must focus investment in areas that provide the greatest return -- and the most sustainable results – achieving not only more money for development, but also more development for money,” said Lake.
The children’s agency says that focusing investment on the poorest and most vulnerable children, many of whom live in the LDCs, is more cost-effective, helping to achieve the Millennium Development Goals more quickly and sustainably. 
The conference, which is taking place in Istanbul, Turkey, from 9-13 May, brings together Heads of State, UN officials, parliamentarians, civil society and private sector representatives in an effort to evaluate progress and expedite sustainable development of the 48 countries that make up the LDCs.


UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS.  UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments. For more information about UNICEF and its work visit: www.unicef.org

For more information, visit: http://www.un.org/wcm/content/site/ldc/home/Background

Sema Hosta, Communication Officer, UNICEF, Turkey
Cell:+90 533 622 8346






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