Check out this post from our partner organization UNICEF.
Food security is a huge issue for UNICEF. But UNICEF is painfully aware that food security is not just about food—it’s also about nutrition. UNICEF’s recent report “Tracking Progress On Child and Maternal Nutrition,” highlights both progress and challenges in ensuring adequate nutrition for mothers and children.
Maternal and child undernutrition is the underlying cause of death in more than a third of children under the age of five. An estimated 200 million children under five also suffer from stunting. Stunted children are too short for their ages, reflecting nutritional deficiencies and illnesses that occur during the most critical growth and development periods in their lives. Once stunting occurs, it is very difficult to reverse—prevention is the only solution.
To prevent child undernutrition, we must focus on the first one thousand days in a child’s life—from conception to his or her second birthday. This is the most critical period for ensuring that children develop properly both physically and mentally. There are simple interventions that can make a big difference. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months and continued breastfeeding until the age of two has a big impact. Providing essential vitamins and minerals (in particular Vitamin A, iodine, iron, zinc, and folate), either through supplementation or food fortification, is a proven solution that costs just a few cents per child.
There are major successes that we can celebrate in addressing child undernutrition. UNICEF’s partnership with Kiwanis to make iodized salt available in even the poorest countries has protected millions of children from iodine deficiency disorders, which affect brain development. Coverage of life-saving Vitamin A supplements has increased to close to 90 per cent in the least developed countries. But there is still much to do. With your continued support and focus, we will make a difference. So keep up your fight for food and nutrition security for people everywhere.
-Mark Engman, Director, Public Policy and Advocacy, U.S. Fund for UNICEF