Date Published: 18 January 2011
WFP and UNICEF to scale up nutrition to fight child stunting in Southern and Eastern Africa
The United Nations World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF have agreed to work together to reduce levels of child stunting in Southern and Eastern Africa and accelerate progress toward achieving the UN Millennium Development Goals by 2015.
UNICEF Eastern and Southern Africa Regional Director Elhadj As Sy and WFP Southern, Eastern and Central Africa Regional Director Mustapha Darboe have signed an agreement setting the twin goals as joint priorities, while also noting that considerable progress has already been made to address nutritional factors that compromise young children's health.
“We're working together to address the scourge of child stunting caused by nutritional deprivation between birth and the age of two years,”said Darboe.
“It's shocking to note that there are twice as many stunted children in the region as the number of underweight children.?
Stunting (low height for age) indicates nutritional deprivation early in life ? from conception up to two years of age. Unlike underweight, which is a composite of both stunting and wasting (low weight for height), stunting past the age of two is irreversible, and has long-term debilitating effects: Children who are stunted are at greater risk of illness and death. It is estimated that countries lose over three per cent of their GDP through the effects of under-nutrition.
According to the latest data from UNICEF, the prevalence of stunting in the developing world has declined from 40% to 29% between 1990 and 2008, but the progress has been stagnant in Africa. Over the same period, stunting in Africa has only been reduced from 38% to 34%. Of the 24 countries that account for 80% of the world's stunting burden, seven are in the Eastern and Southern Africa region.
“Investing in child nutrition pays high dividends for a country's social and national development,”said UNICEF's As Sy.
“Without action, billions of dollars in revenue will continue to be lost for the African nations experiencing the highest burdens of malnutrition. National nutrition strategies need to tackle not only the root causes of stunting, but also to target the most vulnerable children and their families ? those in remote areas, or from the poorest and marginalized communities.?
Only 11 African countries are on track to reaching the Millennium Development Goal of halving the proportion of people suffering from hunger between 1990 and 2015. Of these 11 countries, only four ? Mozambique, Botswana, Swaziland and Angola ? are in Eastern and Southern Africa.
Source: UNICEF Website, Press Release.