Remarks by UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore at the Micronutrient Forum

As prepared for delivery

13 November 2020

NEW YORK, 13 November 2020  "Distinguished guests, colleagues, ladies and gentlemen. On behalf of everyone at UNICEF, I extend my thanks to the Micronutrient Forum for bringing us together today.

"And to all the partners gathered here today — thank you for standing with us in common cause: to end malnutrition in all its forms. And to emerge from the COVID-19 crisis stronger than before.

"We have a unique opportunity to respond, recover and reimagine better, more effective nutrition policies, programmes and actions for the future.

"Micronutrients must be part of this nutrition transformation. An opportunity to blunt the “hidden hunger” than affects at least half of the world’s children. And to build on the progress we’ve made in the last two decades. 

"Progress we measure in the one-third reduction in the number of under-five children suffering from stunting since 2000 — and the 55 million fewer children suffering from stunted growth and development.

"Progress we measure in the 80 million more children now benefitting from exclusive breastfeeding in infancy.

"Progress we measure in the availability of iodized salt to nine out of 10 households in the world.

"And progress we measure in the 250 million children reached last year with vitamin A supplementation.

"Achievement after achievement. All showing that positive change at scale is possible.  

"But our work must continue.

"Inequalities, globalization, urbanization, humanitarian crises and climate shocks — and now the pandemic — are threatening to reverse our progress.

"One in three of the world’s children under age five is malnourished.

"At least two in three are not receiving the minimum diet they need to grow, develop and learn to their full potential.

"We’re seeing an alarming rise in the number of children affected by overweight and obesity — across all age-groups, regions, and countries.

"And the pandemic has dramatically disrupted nutrition services and delivery in many countries around the world.

"Including for critical micronutrients.

"We fear, for example, that nearly 87 million fewer children will get the two doses of vitamin A they need this year. A 35 per cent decline over last year.

"And that 41 million fewer adolescents will go without iron-folic acid supplementation programmes to prevent anemia because of school closures.

"And across the board, COVID-19 disruptions are having negative effects on child feeding practices and diets. 

"Budgets are stretched — for families and government support services alike.

"Transportation and supply chain disruptions are taking a toll.

"And with school closures, more than 300 million children are missing out on school meals. Often the only meal they receive each day.

"Earlier this year, UNICEF, together with FAO, WFP and WHO, issued a five-point Call to Action on child malnutrition.

"First, safeguard and promote access to nutritious, safe, and affordable diets. This is essential.

"Second, invest in improving maternal and child nutrition through pregnancy, infancy, and early childhood.

"Third, re-activate and scale-up services for the early detection and treatment of child wasting.

"Fourth, maintain the provision of nutritious and safe school meals for vulnerable children.

"And fifth, expand social protection to safeguard access to nutritious diets and essential services.

"But as we invest in these actions, we also recognize that no single sector, government, agency, or business can solve this problem on their own.

"We must work as one, and do so across five key systems: food, health, water and sanitation, education and social protection. All of the ingredients that support good nutrition and diets.

"This systems approach will be a cornerstone of UNICEF’s upcoming Nutrition Strategy for 2020-2030. We stand ready to work with governments, civil society, academia and the private sector to reimagine the future of nutrition and the systems that support it.

"And we will join the global call to transform food systems and nutrition at next year’s Global Food Systems Summit in New York, convened by the UN Secretary-General, and the Nutrition For Growth Summit, convened by the Government of Japan.

"By standing together for nutrition — by uniting around a common call for positive change — we can make good nutrition an everyday reality for children, everywhere.

"So let’s be guided by the evidence, ideas and commitment generated at this Forum.

"Let’s build on the wonderful progress achieved over the last two decades.

"And in the years leading to 2030, let’s protect that progress — and do much more to eliminate all forms of malnutrition.

"This is not the time to lower our ambition. This is a time for champions, and I am calling on each one of you to lead the global nutrition transformation in every nation — and for every child.

"Thank you."

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