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Under-nutrition a major factor in child mortality


Almost sixty years after the Universal Declaration on Human Rights declared that everyone has a right to food, it is unacceptable that under-nutrition is still linked to nearly half of all deaths of children under the age of five, UNICEF stated on the occasion of World Food Day 2007.

World Food Day highlights the situation of the world’s hungry and undernourished. The right to food is the theme of this year’s observance. UNICEF supports a two-pronged approach to under-nutrition that focuses on both prevention and treatment.

“Simple solutions to address under-nutrition can make a real difference to the lives of millions of children,” said UNICEF Executive Director, Ann M. Veneman. “Early initiation of breastfeeding and exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life could prevent the deaths of over one million children under the age of five each year.”

Timely introduction of nutrient-rich and fortified complementary foods at six months could prevent a further 6 per cent of deaths in children under five.

The impact of these interventions would be enhanced by improvements in caring practices at the household level, in handwashing and hygiene and in access to health services.

The use of innovative and nutrient-dense ready-to-use therapeutic foods (RUTFs) at community and household level can provide a valuable means to treat under-nutrition in children, helping reduce under-five mortality.

An estimated three-quarters of children with severe acute malnutrition and no medical complications can be treated at home with RUTFs, such as the peanut-based paste called Plumpy’nut (registered trademark).

“Sound nutrition – for mothers as well as children – is central to health, learning and well-being,” said Veneman. “Nutrition needs to be an integral part of community-based health services, backed by strong national health systems.”

UNICEF is on the ground in over 150 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.


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