Delegate: Emma Ellefson-Frank
School: Williamston High School
Committee: World Health Organization
Topic: Infant and Child Nutrition
In 2018, the World Health Organization estimated that for children under five years, 22% were suffering from stunted growth, 17 million were wasting (below average weight for age), and 45% in Africa alone were overweight but malnourished. Not only do these alarming numbers represent children who do not have access to proper vitamins and minerals, but it also shows the number of children who are more susceptible to disease and death. Thankfully, since the United Nations declared the decade for action on nutrition in 2016, member states have started taking steps to improve access to high nutrient foods as well as educating the public on how to stay eating healthy. Additionally, WHO has launched several programs that stress the importance of breastfeeding through infancy which has been proven to build a child’s antibodies and immune system allowing them to more easily fight diseases. However, infant and child nutrition continues to be a problem because over the underlying problem of poverty and social inequity which pose barriers to proper nutrition.
At 41%, Afghanistan has one of the highest rates of stunted growth in the entire world. And at 9%, Afghanistan also has a very high rate of wasting. This is the result of multiple factors the first of which is that only 50% of children in Afghanistan are breastfed. Also, children in Afghanistan simply do not have access to the right kinds and varieties of food. And to add, the limited number of medical professionals in Afghanistan are unable to give adequate advice to preventing malnutrition. All of these things have led to an increased rate of child malnutrition as well an increased rate of anemia, now at about 33%, in adolescent girls. While Afghanistan has been working with UNICEF to address these issues and more there is still a long way to go before the nation will be content with its child nutrition rates.
The nation of Afghanistan believes that addressing infant and child nutrition requires a variety of steps: education and reduction of stigma, training for medical professionals on the topic of nutrition, and improving accessibility to nutritional foods. First, while breastfeeding has proven to have incredible health benefits for children, some cultures still hold stigmas against it. To combat this, Afghanistan suggests working with experts on regional culture to teach residents about not only the importance of breastfeeding but also the acceptability of it. Additionally education on what foods are best for children is necessary for the general population. Second, Afghanistan seeks to develop an internationally cooperative program to train doctors in countries with struggling healthcare systems, about how to treat and prevent malnutrition. Lastly, even if people are educated about proper nutrition and doctors know how to properly advise patients, it means nothing if this committee does not increase access to nutrient filled foods. One way that the WHO can do this is by incentivising grocery stores and farmers ,with tax cuts or some other form financial payoff, to lower the cost of produce and meats. Afghanistan looks forward to working with all nations as this is a problem that truly affects the whole world in one way or another.
- Emma Ellefson-Frank