New evidence discussed today at the Stop Stunting Conference in New Delhi says that if South Asia is to make significant strides in reducing child stunting, greater investments will be needed to improve results in three key areas: child feeding, women’s nutrition and household sanitation. For millions of South Asian children, stunting results in slow growth velocity, poor physical growth and impaired cognitive development.
For many children who live in this part of the world, stunting starts before birth because their mothers are undernourished and or too young to be pregnant and give birth. For an even greater number of children, the nutrition status deteriorates progressively through the first two years of life due to the poor quality of their diets. In environments where open defecation is widespread, nutrition interventions alone may not be able to normalize child growth, hence the importance of improving both nutrition and sanitation.
“South Asia is at the epicentre of the global stunting crisis with over 63 million children under-five being stunted. In our region, one third of women are underweight, anemic or both, two-thirds of young children are fed diets that do not meet the minimum requirements for healthy growth and development, and 40% of households practice open defecation. We must take action now” said Karin Hulshof, Regional Director for UNICEF in South Asia.
According to a press release issued by UNICEF, the Stop Stunting Regional Conference is providing a platform where state-of-the-art evidence, innovations and better practices are being shared to accelerate sectoral and cross-sectoral advocacy, policies, programmes and research in Maternal and Child Nutrition and Household Hygiene and Sanitation.
“Our call to Stop Stunting is a call to join forces in support to national governments so that no child – boy or girl – in South Asia sees his life, her opportunities undercut because of persistent nutrition deprivation” added Karin Hulshof.
Organized in Indian capital New Delhi, this event is taking place as the world celebrates the 25th anniversary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child - the CRC. The CRC has inspired national legislation; policies and programmes to respect protect and fulfill child rights in South Asia. Yet, pervasive poverty and inequities prevent millions of children in South Asia from living in dignity and reaching their full potential.