Mothers breastfeeding their children in Angola.
Proper nutrition is a powerful good: people who are well nourished are more likely to be healthy, productive and able to learn. Good nutrition benefits families, their communities and the world as a whole.
Undernutrition is, by the same logic, devastating. It blunts the intellect, saps the productivity of everyone it touches and perpetuates poverty.
As UNICEF documented in its 2013 report, ‘Improving Child Nutrition: The achievable imperative for global progress’, the scope of undernutrition goes beyond the crises we see in the headlines. Stunting affects 165 million children under five years old – one out of every four.
Stunting - or low height for age - traps people into a lifelong cycle of poor nutrition, illness, poverty and inequity. The damage to physical and cognitive development, especially during the first two years of a child’s life, is largely irreversible. A child’s poorer school performance results in future income reductions of up to 22 per cent on average. As adults, they are also at increased risk of obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
In 2012, an estimated 25 per cent of children under five years of age were stunted globally, or 162 million children, which represents a 37 per cent decrease from an estimated 257 million in 1990. However, a new Lancet article on nutrition from 6 June 2013 shows that progress is not fast enough, so what is needed now is strong, global commitment and leadership to accelerate efforts.
There are many compelling reasons to increase efforts. A group of leading economists, the Copenhagen Consensus, has consistently confirmed that taking action on undernutrition is the single most important, cost-effective means of advancing human well-being. Thus would accelerate the achievement of the Millennium Development Goals, save lives and should be a top global priority.
UNICEF is a key partner in the major global initiative called the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement, which is bringing much needed focus and investment for nutrition in a number of countries. In addition, UNICEF is committed both to working in and convening partnership across all sectors of society with governments, UN organizations, the private sector and civil society.
Proper nutrition helps give every child the best start in life. UNICEF is committed to scaling up and sustaining coverage of its current high-impact nutrition interventions in the programme areas of: (1) Infant and Young Child Feeding; (2) Micronutrients; (3) Nutrition Security in Emergencies; and (4) Nutrition and HIV/AIDS. UNICEF is committed to a life-cycle approach, to using partnerships and to creating and enhancing integrated interventions to maximize effectiveness, such as combining vitamin A supplementation with other accelerated child survival interventions through Child Health Events.