Improving the nutrition status of children and women (2008)

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This issue of id21 insights focuses on nutrition of women and children:
  • Improving the nutrition status of children and women: The high world food prices that we are currently experiencing provide a chilling reminder of the vulnerability of large parts of sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia to hunger and undernutrition. Many children in these regions are vulnerable to poor growth, poor development and death. Even before these high prices, child undernutrition was increasing in Africa. In booming South Asia, stubborn child undernutrition rates provide a sombre reminder that income growth does not solve all problems. Good nutrition status for children and adolescent girls is fundamental for attaining many of the Millennium Development Goals. Despite this, donors and governments underinvest in interventions to improve nutrition.
  • Why is undernutrition not a higher priority for donors? The prevention of chronic undernutrition is vital for reducing mortality and morbidity, for economic productivity, and for the respect and protection of human rights. Yet nutrition interventions tend to be low priorities for donors and developing country governments.
  • Strong public-private sector partnerships can help to reduce undernutrition: Global progress towards reducing undernutrition has been made through enlightened public policies, targeted development assistance, private sector actions and commitments from civil society. Yet every year, the deaths of more than 3.5 million children under the age of 5 can be attributed to undernutrition.
  • The success of salt iodisation: A shortage of iodine in a diet can cause cretinism, mental retardation and premature birth. These iodine deficiency disorders (IDD) can be eliminated by adding iodine to cooking salt.
  • The price of hunger: The first Millennium Development Goal – to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger – reflects the fact that undernutrition is both a symptom and a cause of poverty. The first measure of success is well known: to halve the number of people earning less than US$1 a day. The other – to halve the number of people suffering from inadequate food consumption – is equally important but less well known.
  • The persistence of child malnutrition in Africa: Malnutrition affects about 30 percent of children in Africa, caused by low birth weight and post-natal growth faltering. Child malnutrition is a persistent problem. The long term trend shows only slow improvement, and malnutrition rates worsen during droughts, economic crises, conflicts and displacement, and HIV.
  • Nutrition for mothers and children: Article 25.2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights establishes that motherhood and childhood are entitled to special care and assistance. Yet maternal and child undernutrition are still highly prevalent in most developing countries.
  • Why have donors committed so few direct investments to eliminate child undernutrition? The mandate of most international donors is to reduce poverty, suffering and inequity. Addressing child undernutrition falls within this. However, current donor investment to directly address undernutrition is estimated to be well under half of the resources required.
  • What can be done to accelerate progress against undernutrition?  Many organisations work to eliminate undernutrition in children and pregnant and lactating women in developing countries. These organisations – international organisations, donors, academia, civil society and private sector – are loosely linked as an international nutrition system. However, this system is fragmented and dysfunctional.
Language: English
Imprint: id21 insights 73, July 2008 http://www.id21.org/insights/insights73/insights73.pdf 2008
Series: Newsletter,
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