Progress made in the fight against stunted growth in children: UNICEF

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healthy children

Real progress is being made in the fight against stunted growth which affects over 165 million children under the age of five, according to a new report by the United Nations children's fund (UNICEF) issued on Monday.

The report shows that stunted growth is the result of chronic undernutrition in crucial periods of a child's growth.

UNICEF estimates that 80 per cent of the world's stunted children live in just 14 countries.

The report says a key success against stunting is focusing attention on pregnancy and the first two years of a child's life.

It calls for targeted efforts to improve women's nutrition, early and exclusive breastfeeding, providing additional vitamins and minerals as well as appropriate foods to infants.

UNICEF's chief of nutrition Werner Schultink, says the damage done to a child's body and brain by stunting is irreversible and that stunted children are also at a higher risk of dying from infectious diseases than other children.

"For example brain cells develop less well.  That in turn leads to decreased school functioning it leads in turn to decreased performance in your work life.. If we want to achieve a world where there is better equity where there is less poverty and that we're able to reduce poverty levels in a sustained manner we need to put people on the right track in life and the most fundamental thing to do that is by ensuring that there is good nutrition in the period of pregnancy and two years of age.  If you want to tackle poverty you need to tackle stunting."

The UNICEF report highlights successes in scaling up nutrition and improving policies, programmes and behaviour change in 11 countries: Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Nepal, Peru, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sri Lanka, Kyrgyzstan, Tanzania and Viet Nam.

Patrick Maigua, United Nations Radio, Geneva

Duration 1’58″

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