September 16, 2019
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 In GLIMUN2019: Infant and Child Nutrition

The future of a country is its children, and it is crucial that we take our part in providing

for them, despite the fact that many countries are unable to. The World Health Organization must

step up and take action in order to guarantee the health and growth of children around the world,

as these children are the future of the world. The effects of malnutrition stretch far and wide and

it is our duty to prevent.

Within Sri Lanka we have experienced this issue head on – more than one fifth of our

children face population. Approximately one in three children aged 3-59 months are severely

underweight. Compared to other nations of similar GDPs and standards of living, this is very

high. According to UNICEF, the causes of child undernutrition in Sri Lanka, a country that

suffers no significant food shortages and provides extensive, free maternal and child health

services, are not well understood. The root of the problem lies in a lack of knowledge

surrounding nutrition and cultural factors affecting the utilisation of healthcare.

Sri Lanka has implemented many policies to address specific nutrition problems in

children. Campaigns to promote breast-feeding of infants, including awareness creation of the

nutritional benefits of breast-feeding, distribution of feeding bottles and teats to maternity

hospitals and health care providers, and the provision of free and low cost supplies of infant

formula to hospitals and health care facilities. Second, there is a salt iodization program to

combat iodine deficiency disorders, including the prevalence of goiter and thyroid deficiencies.

Third, there is a program to fortify wheat flour with iron to combat problems of iron deficiency

anemia. A variant of this program is pilot testing the mixing of iron and vitamin supplements in

wheat flour.

Sri Lanka has implemented many policies to address specific nutrition problems in

children. Campaigns to promote breast-feeding of infants, including awareness creation of the

nutritional benefits of breast-feeding, distribution of feeding bottles and teats to maternity

hospitals and health care providers, and the provision of free and low cost supplies of infant

formula to hospitals and health care facilities.

 

In addition to these more specific problem Sri Lanka has put many other programs into

place to promote child growth and address child malnutrition. These programs commence at

conception and proceeds through fetal life, infancy and childhood. The interventions include

family planning to space and limit children, antenatal care to ensure fetal growth and well-being,

breast feeding, promoting appropriate weaning, growth monitoring, immunization programs,

prevention of infections such as water-borne diseases, worm infestation and respiratory illnesses,

use of oral rehydration solutions for children suffering from diarrhea, feeding during infections

and food supplementation. These policies and programs to reduce child malnutrition are

complemented by health and nutrition education. The Ministry of Health provides a range of

health and nutrition education services. In terms of maternal education, activities exist to

promote adequate food consumption and health care of pregnant and lactating mothers.

Exclusive breast feeding is encouraged and growth monitoring promoted for the first 4-6 months.

Nutrition education is carried out by health workers at the central, provincial and divisional

levels. The school curriculum also contains material on nutrition, including hygienic food

preparation, nutritious feeding habits, safe sanitary habits and consumption of clean drinking

water. In addition, universities offer courses in nutrition at undergraduate and postgraduate

degree levels.

No child should have to face malnutrition at any point in their lives. Access to healthy

food and safe water sources should be considered a basic human right – regardless of

socioeconomic status. In recent years, we are seeing a worrisome amount of malnutrition cases

occurring across the globes. Even first world countries are experiencing this with the citizens that

fall between the cracks and into poverty. Together, the World Health Organization must actively

combat hunger and malnutrition. Children should not be tasked with the burden of hunger. We

must be the first step towards creating a world in which children can focus on education, mental

health, and their own future.

  • Kumaran Nathan

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