Boosting low nutrition levels requires action on multiple fronts
Many children and mothers in Myanmar struggle to access adequate nutrition, especially the 37 per cent of the population living below the poverty line.
Undernutrition has major impacts on children’s future health, growth and development.
Poor diets are the major cause of child stunting, or low height for age. In Myanmar, the prevalence of stunting among children under five dropped from 35.1 percent in 2009 to to 29 percent by 2016. However this is still significantly high as prevalence in some states or regions are up to 41 percent. This means that nearly 4 out of 10 children will not reach their full potential in life.
The poorest children are most affected, with 38 per cent stunted, compared to only 16 per cent of children in the wealthiest households.
Only 25 percent or 2 out of 10 young children in Myanmar receive adequate diet in quality, diversity and quantity.
The contributing factors for child undernutrition include inadequate infant and young child care and feeding practices, inadequate maternal nutrition, inadequate access to health services, inadequate hygiene and sanitation, and limited knowledge about optimal health and nutrition behaviours.
Underlying causes—including lack of sustainable livelihoods, food insecurity and lack of access to other basic social services—are also drivers of malnutrition in different parts of the country.
UNICEF collaborates with several Government ministries and partners to increase investments in nutrition that improve lives and contribute to ending preventable maternal and child deaths.
As part of the UN network of the Scaling Up Nutrition platform in Myanmar, UNICEF works with stakeholders to support the Government in developing a new national multi-sectoral plan of action for nutrition, involving the key sectors of health, agriculture, education and social welfare.
With UNICEF support, mandatory iodized salt and other standards have been included in the updated national food law, and a high-level committee is helping provide oversight to monitor and enforce the National Code on Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes.
UNICEF’s support for Myanmar’s Early Childhood Intervention strategic plan will help ensure that children affected by undernutrition and other challenges receive comprehensive support during an initial rollout in nine sites, with emphasis on prevention and early childhood stimulation.
We are addressing key gaps by helping to build the capacity of thousands of basic health staff and community volunteers to provide caregivers with essential nutrition services that are part of the Essential Package of Health Services for Myanmar, including community-based Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) and the Integrated Management of Acute Malnutrition (IMAM).
41,500 children under the age of five benefitted from multiple micronutrient supplementation, and 21,028 pregnant and lactating women received counselling on Infant and Young Child Feeding (IYCF) to support exclusive breastfeeding and optimal complementary feeding.
In addition, 2,160 children under the age of five suffering from Severe Acute Malnutrition received lifesaving therapeutic nutrition treatment.
To address knowledge gaps about the critical importance of care, including nutrition, especially during the first 1,000 days of life, UNICEF supports the Government and partners to deliver evidence-based, effective social behaviour change communication strategies and interventions to families and communities. In 2017 all townships in Magway Region and Kayin State, and 29 per cent of townships in Rakhine State, started to provide community-based Infant and Young Child Feeding services.
The Government’s Maternal and Child Cash Transfer (MCCT) programme for pregnant and lactating mothers, which UNICEF is supporting, contributes to improved maternal and child nutrition results.