With 51 million children fewer than five still underweight in parts of Asia and the Pacific, World Health Day is an urgent reminder to save the lives of thousands of children and solve under nutrition, an underlying cause of child deaths says international humanitarian organization World Vision.
In at least eight countries in Asia and the Pacific, more than one in every four children is underweight, according to 2013 statistics from the World Health Organization (WHO). Timor Leste reported the highest prevalence rate of underweight children under 5 at 45.3 per cent, followed by, India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Cambodia, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka and Laos.
“Despite the world placing an emphasis on solving under nutrition and stunting for the last 15 years through the Millennium Development Goals, in most low income and middle income countries in Asia like Nepal, there are chronic problems with child health that need to be addressed,” says Liz Satow, National Director of World Vision International Nepal. “In Nepal, incidence of underweight children has reduced from 43% in 2005 to 28.8% in 2013 and there has been a similar decrease in stunting and in the child mortality rate. Also, the good news is that the Multi Sector Nutrition Plan 2013-17 formulated by the National Planning Commission and designed to improve maternal and child under-nutrition has brought relevant government departments and agencies together. So it is time for us to build on this success and opportunity to help improve the nutrition status and save the lives of young children.”
According to a press release issued by World Vision International, Children who are stunted have reduced cognitive development and are at greater risk of infection and illness, which kill many children during their early years. Nearly half of all deaths among children below age 5 are caused by under nutrition – killing an estimated 3 million children globally every year, the WHO reports.
World Vision, through its long-term community development projects partnering with the local government and communities, addresses child nutrition by teaching mothers to use locally available ingredients to diversity children’s meals, promoting home-based management and the prevention of childhood malnutrition through monthly growth- monitoring, door-to-door visits, and training in preparing nutritious food for children, e.g. sarbottampitho (super flour), and poshilojaulo (nutritious rice) in districts like Sunsari, Lamjung, Jumla, Rupandehi, Doti, Udayapur, Sindhuli, Achham and Kailali.
“As the world considers the post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, child nutrition needs to a top priority for nations across Asia. Strong policies that are effectively implemented, multi-stakeholder campaigns and initiatives, along with targeted programming at the most-vulnerable communities needs to be considered to tackle child malnutrition,” says Liz Satow.