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UN, Malawi Government Collaborate to Fight Against Childhood Malnutrition

UNITED NATIONS, Jan 24 2014 (IPS) - The United Nations, working in conjunction with the World Food Programme (WFP),  Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF) and Malawi’s government in a series of relief operations, has launched another initiative to combat the effects of stunted child growth and development in the southern-African country.

“WFP’s focus on prevention of stunting, through [providing the] right food at the right time and beyond, is very exciting,” says WFP Representative Coco Ushiyama. “Through strong partnerships, multi-sector engagement and evidence-based approach, we want to show the world that we can, and must address stunting,” he added.

At an estimated cost of 10 million dollars, the new stunting-prevention project complements 2010’s global “SUN” initiative and 2011’s  “1,000 Special Days” initiative. The projects are a continued effort to reduce malnutrition, accelerate childhood progress and lessen stunting in general, by 5 to 10 per cent. This new launch places strong focus on 66,000 children in Malawi’s Ntchisi district.

The situation in Ntchisi is currently at its height, as the ‘lean’ season means long dry spells, low crop production, food shortage and high food prices. That, coupled with poor dietary diversity, young children and mothers are experiencing repeated illnesses.

A press release by WFP and CIFF says World Vision is the lead NGO in this project and, by working with a network of community volunteers, hopes to reach 100 per cent of households. Registered children under two years old will be fed a specialized nutritional product called Nutributter. Those over three-and-a-half years old will receive integral feeding to control their acute malnutrition. Their mothers will be trained in practising safe hygiene.

According to research, the potential to make the greatest difference in the lives of children lies in the fundamental 1,000 days between conception and two years of age. It also shows that Malawi’s childhood under-development rate is 47%, due to malnutrition. Undernourished children are more likely to have low educational grades than healthy children.

Malawi President Dr. Joyce Banda, speaking at a news conference said, “This literally means half the children in Malawi are stunted. This is very alarming and unacceptable.” Banda further stated that the importance of nutrition in children, in order to achieve sustainable development, must be understood.

“Stunting in children can be reduced to under 20 per cent by 2020,” said Banda. “With the right support and intervention, stunting in children can be reduced to under 20 per cent by 2020.”

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