World Health Organization
Infant and Child Nutrition
Proper nutrition can greatly increase survival rates of infants and young children; early nutrition deficits led to issues in lifelong health and growth. These issues are especially prominent in developing nations; according to data collection by UNICEF, poor nutrition is responsible for an estimated 9.5 deaths per year in children younger than 5 years of age, and more than 50% of deaths of children in developing countries can be attributed to malnutrition. In 2002, the World Health Organization and UNICEF adopted the Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding, which summarizes essential knowledge for health professionals in order to bring attention to the effect nutrition has on health, growth, cognition, motor, and social development of children. Other actions by world powers brought attention to infant and child nutrition, such as the document Indicators for Assessing Infant and Young Child Feeding Practices and the program Integrated Management for Childhood Illness by WHO, and the Early Child Development Program by the World Bank and UNICEF.
Because 37% of its population living below the poverty line, Myanmar struggles to provide children and mothers with access to adequate nutrition. According to data by UNICEF, only about 25% of young children in Myanmar receive a diet with adequate quality, diversity, and quantity. Children living in the most poverty-stricken communities are most affected, with 38% suffering from stunted growth–which is dramatically low height for their age–while children of the wealthiest households have only 16% stunted growth. Contributing factors for the poor nutrition among Myanmar’s infant and youth population include inadequate access to health services, inadequate maternal nutrition, inadequate hygiene and sanitation, inadequate feeding practices, and inadequate knowledge and education of optimal health and nutrition behaviors.
Myanmar proposes that the United Nations uphold all works currently in place to combat malnutrition and inadequate nutrition and increase funding for all such works in Myanmar. With the help of such works, the prevalence of stunting among children under five dropped from about 35% in 2009 to 29% in 2016. In order to stay on this path to adequate child and infant nutrition, UN programs must stay in place. Such programs include the Scaling up Nutrition platform in Myanmar, which works with stakeholders to support the government in developing a new multi-sectoral plan of action for nutrition, involving the key sectors of health, agriculture, education, and social welfare. Other effective programs include the UNICEF supported mandatory food standards in the National Food Law and its monitoring of the National Bode on Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes and UNICEF’s support for Myanmar’s Early Childhood Intervention strategic plan.
- Anna Devarenne