Leading nutrition organizations issue call to prioritize child nutrition for a healthier, more prosperous Asia
A third of all children in Asia are stunted, or too short for their age – a key indicator of chronic malnutrition. Malnutrition during a child’s critical early years damages their intellectual and physical development, limiting their future economic participation, and increases their vulnerability to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in adulthood. The World Bank estimates that India, where 48% of children are stunted and over 30% of children are born with a low birth weight, loses approximately 3% of annual GDP due to malnutrition.
The nutrition group, which includes World Vision, Save the Children, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), the Essential Micronutrients Foundation and industry partner Royal DSM, called on Summit delegates to commit to nutrition support as a key input to sustainable health and economic development outcomes. It called on governments to promote adequate health and nutrition for women of reproductive age, particularly pregnant and lactating women, to ensure their children have a head-start in good nutritional status. Through public-private partnerships, the private sector can support countries in improving diets by fortifying staples and making vitamin and mineral supplements affordable to the poor.
“The nutritional challenges faced by millions of children across Asia, coupled with increased economic inequality, can only be tackled through strong public-private partnerships. This combination of expertise and experience, with a profound sense of responsibility, are the very best tools we have for ridding the world of malnutrition,” said Stephan Tanda, Managing Board Member of Royal DSM, on behalf of the group, adding that it welcomed interest and participation from key stakeholders across both sectors.
Singapore’s successes in maternal and child health can serve as a model for other countries. Since its independence, the country has achieved one of the lowest infant and under-five mortality rates in the world. With its strategic location and regional hub status in Asia, Singapore can play an important role in fostering greater public-private partnerships in the region to improve nutrition in the first 1,000 days.
Malnutrition is associated with poor feeding practices and other lack of access clean water, sanitation, healthcare, social protection and initiatives to empower women. There is compelling evidence connecting maternal nutrition to increased risks in their offspring of developing chronic disease, particularly diabetes and heart disease, later in life. Both undernutrition and overnutrition can have long term adverse effects. Of particular concern is the rapidly rising incidence of gestational diabetes and maternal obesity in Asia, which has major implications for the next generation.
“Economic growth alone will not solve the world’s nutrition problems – political leadership is absolutely necessary,” asserted the group. “Governments must understand that investing in both mother and child nutrition, especially in the first 1,000 days, means investing in their country’s economic future.”
Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN)
Driven by a vision of a world without malnutrition, GAIN was created in 2002 at a Special Session of the U.N. General Assembly on Children. GAIN supports public-private partnerships to increase access to the missing nutrients in diets necessary for people, communities and economies to be stronger and healthier. With a current daily reach of over 667 million people in more than 30 countries, GAIN’s goal is to improve the lives of one billion people by 2015 within the most vulnerable populations around the world through access to sustainable nutrition solutions.
Save the Children
Save the Children is the world’s leading independent organisation for children. We work in over 20 countries in Asia and 120 countries globally. We seek to create immediate and lasting changes to the lives of children, in the areas of education, health and nutrition, child protection, child rights governance, HIV/AIDS and in humanitarian crises. In 2011, Save the Children’s work touched the lives of more than 125 million children around the world.
Sight and Life
Sight and Life is a not-for-profit nutrition think tank of DSM. We care about the world’s most vulnerable populations, and exist to help improve their nutritional status. Acting as their advocates, we guide original nutrition research, disseminate its findings and facilitate dialog to bring about positive change. We believe that the right mix of funding, knowledge, technology and policy will lead to better health. We work through advocacy and leadership to address societal changes affecting dietary quality. We act responsibly to disseminate information that reflects current knowledge and evolving scientific evidence. We also aim to promote partnerships that are able to solve outstanding problems.
World Vision is a Christian relief, development and advocacy organisation dedicated to working with children, families and communities to overcome poverty and injustice. World Vision works across 23 countries in the Asia Pacific benefitting 1.2 million children and their communities.