Infant and Young Child Feeding/Stunting Reduction planning and programming workshop
Ulaanbaatar, 6 August, 2013 – Although the stunting rate in Mongolia has progressively declined over the past 20 years, it still remains a concern, with 16% of children under 5 years old being stunted. The rate widely differs by regions and by household wealth index; with the highest prevalence in Western and Khangai regions (18-25%). In Western region, the number of children who are too short for their age is twice higher compared to Ulaanbaatar (25% vs 12% respectively). The nutritional status of children from poorest households is extremely adverse compared to that of wealthy families (stunting prevalence – 25% vis-a vis 7%).
Stunted children are inches shorter than they could have been with proper nutrition. Their immune system is weaker, leaving them more vulnerable to diseases. The condition affects the development of brain which in turn affects learning capacity. Later, when such stunted children enter the adult workforce, their diminished physical and cognitive development can reduce their earning capacity by as much as 22 percent which translates into a loss in GDP of 2-3%.
Optimal infant and young child feeding is essential for child growth. Providing sufficient nutritious and safely prepared complementary foods in addition to breastfeeding and micronutrient supplementation is the most effective way to improve growth of children between six months to two years old. Together with maternal nutrition interventions they contribute to reduce stunting. However adequate nutrition is maybe among the least understood and least prioritized development issue today.
Complementary feeding practices are commonly poor in Mongolia such as the frequency and composition of complementary food and feedings are also inadequate. Only 31% of children aged 6-23 months received solid and semi-solid complementary food as per the recommended minimum recommended frequency.
Malnutrition is not just a nutrition issue and therefore requires involvement of others from health, education, water and sanitation, agriculture and social protection to address stunting. Wellbeing of children affected by stunting must be the frontline issue along with health, illiteracy and violence with special attention directed to children in rural areas who live in poverty.
The Ministry of Health in collaboration with UNICEF and Asian Development Bank is organizing the Infant and Young Child Feeding/Stunting Reduction planning and programming workshop that will be held for 4 days and facilitated by nutrition experts from UNICEF regional office and headquarters. The workshop will focus on improvement of development of plans to achieve accelerated results for infant and young child feeding and programmatic success to address stunting more effectively.