Committee: World Health Organization
Topic Area A: Infant and Child Nutrition
Delegate: Marley Mack
School: Fishers High School
Nutrition is the most important part of a healthy lifestyle and disease prevention.
This is especially true in the first eight years of life, the most crucial for physical and cognitive development. According to the United Nations International Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF), around three million children die of malnutrition each year. This is a disturbing number that needs to be reduced immediately. UNICEF has also said that even more children suffer from chronic malnutrition, which can stunt further growth permanently. Children who come for poverty are at worse risk for poor nourishment than those coming from wealthy or middle-class families.
Over four decades, Thailand has made excellent economic growth, and while doing so has made efforts to reduce the malnutrition of children. Malnourishment has dropped from 18.3% of the population of Thailand to only 7.8%, according to the Global Nutrition Report. The prevalence of underweight children has also dropped too, from 41.2% to 30.3% for girls and 33% to 28% for boys. Unfortunately, this drop has also occurred with a rise in obesity in children. From 4.1% to 14.2% for girls and 2.3% to 8.7% for boys. This has all happened over the same 16 year period, 2000-2016. The average stunting percentage has dropped from 15.7% to 10.5% from 2006 to 2016. There was a significant spike of both stunting and overweight children in 2012 but had since then been decreasing. Thailand’s Labor Protection Act of 1998 ensures that female employees are given ninety days of maternity leave. However, it does not ensure paid breastfeeding breaks for female employees. This directly results in an insignificant rise in continued breastfeeding through the first year of a child’s life. From 2005 to 2015, the average went from 31.6% to 33.3%. Significantly less male children get continued breastfeeding than females. UNICEF suggests that breastfeeding be continued through age two, so the Thai government should work on pushing to increase this percentage more drastically. A cause of this slight increase could also be the cultural taboo surrounding breastfeeding in Thailand. According to Thailand Family Law, there are no laws that prevent mothers from breastfeeding in public. However, it is considered immodest and not acceptable in most public situations.
Thailand believes that the best way to continue to improve these statistics would be to educate children on proper, nutritious eating in childhood and later life, make unhealthy food less accessible, and encourage and inform mothers more about breastfeeding. UNICEF can help provide aid for these causes in several ways. Firstly, an international education program for children on how and why eating healthy is important. This program would be added to the public school curriculum, therefore making it easily accessible to most children. Secondly, an effort to normalize breastfeeding in Thailand and other countries where it is considered inappropriate. UNICEF could also push countries with low breastfeeding rates to make more accessible, public stations for breastfeeding and pass legislation giving working mothers paid breaks from work to breastfeed their children.
- Marley Mack