Leadership, commitment keys to win battle against undernutrition: UNICEF

United Nations: Maternal and child nutrition reinforces the need for resolute leadership and steadfast commitment at national and global levels to win the battle against under-nutrition, UNICEF said on Thursday.

"The battle against under-nutrition is being won, but progress is too slow for too many," said Werner Schultink, UNICEF’s head of nutrition.

"We must now step up the pace so more children don’t join the 165 million children who are stunted and to save many millions more children suffering from other forms of under-nutrition".

The research published in the Lancet identified additional nutrition-related causes of mortality that increased the number of deaths of children under five caused by malnutrition to 3.1 million deaths annually or 45 per cent of all under-5 deaths, compared to the journal’s last estimates in 2008.

The study found that children born too small for their gestational age more than a quarter of births in low- and middle-income countries were at a substantially greater risk of dying.

UNICEF says that investing in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life shapes the future of nations. Ending stunting and other forms of under-nutrition saves lives and improves health, prospects for children and development progress.

"This is why the fight against under-nutrition has to be a global imperative for donors, for affected countries, for innovators in the private sector and for communities themselves," said Schultink.

The Lancet reports that undernutrition reduces a nation’s economic advancement by at least eight per cent because of direct productivity losses, losses via poorer cognition and losses via reduced schooling, while other experts have shown that a USD 1 investment in reducing chronic malnutrition can deliver a USD 30 return through improved health and education benefits.