Governments urged to take nutrition lead

Governments must take the lead in upholding every child’s right to food and nutrition, a new report on child nutrition by the United Nations has recommended.

The report - titled: “Fed to Fail?” - highlights the international dietary crisis of early life and was released by the United Nations Children’s Fund (U.N.I.C.E.F.) in September.

“Governments, parliaments and development partners must position young children’s diets as a national development priority, and include commensurate financial resources in their budgets and investments,” read the report. 

“Policies, legislation, and programmes across the food, health and social protection systems must be coherent, given the shared roles of these three systems in improving young children’s diets.

“Coordination is essential to identify and implement mutually reinforcing policy and programme actions.” 

Furthermore, Governments and development partners must support research to identify the context specific barriers and enablers to adequate food, services and practices for young children’s diets – including the experiences of mothers and other primary caregivers.

“They must also invest in research to identify the factors, processes and innovations that enable multi-system action to secure nutritious, safe, affordable, desirable and sustainable diets for young children. Learning from failed experiences is as important as learning from success.” 

The report warns that rising poverty, inequality, conflict, climate-related disasters, and health emergencies such as the COVID-19 pandemic, are contributing to an ongoing nutrition crisis among young children that shows no sign of slowing down. 

However, the report revealed together with national civil society, development partners and the private sector, they must mobilise the policies, resources and actors of three systems: food, health and social protection.

“If activated in the right way and held accountable, these three systems can take complementary actions to: improve the quality of children’s foods, through actions in public policy and food supply chains; improve the quality of children’s food environments, through actions in public policy and private sector practice; and improve the quality of child feeding practices, through programmes that counsel and support families and promote positive child feeding practices and social norms.”

Children under the age of two are most vulnerable to all forms of malnutrition – stunting, wasting, micronutrient deficiencies, and overweight and obesity – as a result of poor diets, due to their greater need for essential nutrients per kilogram of body weight than at any other time in life. 

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