Committee: World Health Organization
Topic: Child Nutrition
Globally, one in three people are affected by malnutrition. Malnutrition is often described as a double burden, as it can arise both from people eating too much food that lacks nutrients and simply eating too little. This issue is especially important in children, as malnutrition from a young age can lead to stunted growth, wasting, and early preventable brain damage. It also significantly increases child mortality, with malnutrition acting as the cause of 45% of deaths among children under age five. The number of overweight children is also growing, reaching 40.1 million overweight children under the age of five. Both of these issues – undernutrition and overnutrition must be addressed to reach the SDG of adequate nutrition for all.
Although the majority of Australia’s adolescence are at a healthy weight, the issues of overnutrition and malnutrition still must be addressed. In the 2007 Australian Nation Children’s Survey, it was found that 23% of children ages 2-16 were overweight or obese and 5% were underweight. Additionally, the same survey saw low levels of observance of the Dietary Guidelines for Children and Adolescents in Australia. Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life has also been difficult to implement despite evidence showing its ability to protect children from a multitude of diseases.
Within Australia, programs have been implemented to better child nutrition, including the Australian National Breastfeeding Strategy. Recently, funding in such programs has been aimed at finding the most efficient ways to improve public health. Globally, Australia has also been funding programs to aid developing nations in fighting malnutrition. The Australian government has worked with NGOs such as Nutrition International to provide nutrient-rich food to malnourished populations. Australia has also been a close partner of the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, which focuses on providing guidelines to mobilize and guide action concerning child malnutrition.
One of the most important parts of providing adequate nutrition to all is education. Many people simply do not know of the vast consequences malnutrition can have on children. Promoting exclusive breastfeeding of infants and proper nutrition guides for adolescents is particularly necessary, but it’s easier said than done. And beyond simply advising mothers to breastfeed, it is exceedingly necessary to encourage effective, people-centered counseling on the topic. And since malnutrition is an intergenerational cycle, it is as critical to provide food for school-age children through a partnership with the WFP as it is to ensure that pregnant women are not nutrient deficient. Further partnership with existing NGOs is needed to distribute micronutrient powders and ready-to-use therapeutic foods. A glut of funding will be needed to implement these changes and others, but funding of increased nutritional standards in developing countries has been shown to have positive returns and increases in GDP, making it in every nation’s best interest to aid others in this fight against malnutrition.
- Aileen Liu