Combating Malnutrition: Time to Act

Combating Malnutrition: Time to Act

Combating Malnutrition: Time to Act

Combating Malnutrition: Time to Act

Synopsis

The paper illustrates the constraints that have limited action towards improving nutrition in the developing world. The understanding of how to best promote the needed changes in policies, programs, and institutional capacities has grown over the past decade, but remains limited. The international community has systemized its knowledge of what actions are likely to improve nutrition, but less effort to systemizing its knowledge of how to intervene in the sociopolitical processes--from community to national and international levels.The assessment recommends a five-point program of action to apply to known solutions with the intensity needed to eliminate nutritional deprivation. Each dimension of the program is an entry point; while local conditions and existing capacity will determine which one is most appropriate in any one context, ultimately all five dimensions need action for maximum impact.The paper concludes that UNICEF and the World Bank, with their complementary approaches and in partnership with countries and other agencies, should initiate a global effort to jump-start action to eliminate nutritional deprivation once and for all.

Excerpt

Malnutrition is a process, with consequences that can extend not only into later life but also into future generations. Becoming malnourished often starts in utero and, particularly for girls and women, may last throughout life (figure 2.1). It also spans generations. A stunted girl is likely to become a stunted adolescent and later a stunted woman. Besides posing threats to her own health and productivity, the poor nutrition that contributes to stunting and underweight increases the chance that a woman’s children will be born malnourished. And so the cycle repeats itself.

Nutritional Status Is Improving Only Slowly—or Even Stagnating

Malnutrition remains a formidable global development challenge. Worldwide, more than 180 million children under age five—nearly one in three—are stunted. Malnutrition is implicated in half of all child deaths and is a major contributor to child ill-health and cognitive underdevelopment (Schroeder 2001). About 1 billion adults in developing countries are underweight, and an estimated 1.6 billion are anemic. They suffer from lower resistance to infection, impaired work capacity, and reduced economic productivity (Horton (2002). In addition, fetal malnutrition threatens survival, growth, and development in childhood—and increases the risk of chronic diseases later in life (Allen and Gillespie 2001).

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