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May 2012: Partners seek nutrition solutions for children through home fortification

home fortification for children
© UNICEF Zambia/2012/Maseko
UNICEF Representative chats with some of the workshop participants at the Taj Pamodzi Hotel

UNICEF Zambia hosts home fortification regional workshop

UNICEF Zambia hosted the fourth Workshop on Improving the Nutritional Quality of Complementary Foods for Young Children 6-23 months through Home Fortification in sub-Saharan Africa from 21 to 25 May 2012. The meeting drew participation from 14 African countries and various research and academic institutions working in the nutrition sector.

The workshop was organized by UNICEF and co-sponsored by the U.S. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and partners, that include the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), Hellen Keller International (HKI), the Micronutrient Initiative (MI), PSI, Sight & Life, UNHCR, the University of British Columbia (UBC), the University of California- Davis (UC Davis), the World Food Programme (WFP) and the Sprinkles Global Health Initiative (SGHI).

UNICEF Zambia Representative, Dr. Iyorlumun J. Uhaa, joined Ministry of Health Permanent Secretary Dr. Peter Mwaba and his Community Development, Mother and Child Health Counterpart, Professor Elywn Chomba at the event.

Dr. Mwaba said that the Zambian Government was making efforts to address the high levels of malnutrition in the country.

“The government with support from partners is scaling up child nutrition programmes including infant and young child feeding, management of acute malnutrition, micronutrient deficiency control and hygiene, water and sanitation, said Dr. Mwaba.

Dr. Uhaa commended the Zambian government for being part of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) initiative to address undernutrition.

“SUN will promote acceleration of evidence-based cost effective interventions to prevent stunting with highest priority during the critical period of 1000 days, starting from pregnancy through the second year of life of a child.  Zambia is part of this initiative and joined as an “Early Riser” country a year ago, a concrete demonstration of the commitment by the Government to Scaling Up nutrition in the country,” said Dr. Uhaa.

He said that in Zambia, 45 per cent of children under the age of five are stunted and 15 per cent are underweight, and 5 per cent are wasted.

“These figures are unacceptably high. We see The SUN movement as an opportunity to make significant progress in nutrition outcomes and to accelerate progress towards the achievement of Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), he said.

The focus on the 1,000 days can realize major shifts in scaling up of well-tested and low-cost nutrition interventions with the backing and engagement of governments from developed and developing countries, donors, development agencies, civil society, academia and private sector.

In most developing countries, under nutrition, including micronutrient deficiencies, are highly prevalent; infants and young children aged 6-24 months and pregnant and lactating women are often the most affected. Among the vitamin and mineral deficiencies affecting infants and young children, deficiencies of vitamin A, iron, iodine, and zinc are the most well-known. Other micronutrient deficiencies such as Calcium and vitamin D deficiencies are also prevalent in certain contexts.

While significant progress has been made in reducing the prevalence of iodine and vitamin A deficiencies, there has been limited success in reducing the burden of iron deficiency anaemia and other micronutrient deficiencies.

Chronic undernutrition in early childhood results in diminished cognitive and physical development, which puts children at a disadvantage for the rest of their lives. They may perform poorly in school, and as adults they may be less productive, earn less and face a higher risk of disease than adults who were not undernourished as children. Children under 2 years old are most vulnerable to chronic undernutrition and it is therefore vital to focus on effective interventions for infants and young children.



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