September 16, 2019
 In Articles

World Health Organization

Infant and Child Nutrition

República Portuguesa

Palak Rekhani

Forest Hills Eastern


 The “Convention on the Rights of the Child” states every infant and child has the right to good nutrition, yet undernutrition is associated with 45% of child deaths. According to the World Health Organization, in 2016 an estimation of 155 million children under 5 were stunted, 52 million were wasted, and 41 million were overweight. Infant and young child nutrition is key to improving child survival and promoting healthy growth and development. Undernutrition can occur from not consuming enough calories, or from lack of necessary vitamins and minerals. Malnutrition is at an alarmingly high rate and occurs in every country.  The United Nations passed numerous resolutions to improve infant and child nutrition. According to the World Health Organization, on 1 April 2016, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 2016–2025 the United Nations Decade of Action on Nutrition. It sets a concrete timeline, led by the WHO and the Food and Agriculture Organization, for implementation of global nutrition and diet goals made at the Second International Conference on Nutrition, such as eradicating all forms of malnutrition by 2030. WHO and UNICEF have also developed courses for training health workers to provide skilled support to breastfeeding mothers, help them overcome problems, and monitor the growth of children, so they can identify the risk of undernutrition in advance. 


Portugal still needs some improvement in infant and child nutrition. The World Breastfeeding Trends Initiative report showed that exclusive breastfeeding rates for the first six months were still low in Portugal. In 2017, a new report showed that over the last twenty years, exclusive breastfeeding rates up to three or four months nearly doubled in Portugal. Portugal has administered multiple ways to aid women in feeding their children.  According to Expatica, Portugal has a publicly funded national health service, the Serviço Nacional de Saúde, and legal residents are given many childcare benefits and maternity care under the Portuguese healthcare system and social security system. Maternity leave in Portugal is currently limited to four months, with the possibility of extending to six months. Portugal is one of the 36 Member States in the executive board of UNICEF. According to the UNICEF website, it 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. Portugal’s government has done a lot to help women provide nutritious food for their children, but Portugal still needs assistance from other countries in making nutritious food easily accessible and affordable. 


Portugal believes that the United Nations should emphasize the importance of proper nutrition during the first two years of a child’s life. Portugal recommends educating women on early initiation of breastfeeding within 1 hour of birth, exclusive breastfeeding for the first 6 months of life, and introduction of nutritionally adequate and safe complementary foods at 6 months with continued breastfeeding up to 2 years old. Women could be given a longer maternity leave so they can properly nourish their children during their pivotal beginnings. The UN could create a program that helps finance countries in poverty or provides families in need with nutritious food. Unlike the past, Infant and Child Nutrition should now be considered an urgent problem that the UN strives to improve. 

  • Palak Rekhani

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