The international community cannot afford to draw back from their commitments to improve nutrition in developing countries, not when up to 20 million children — and counting — around the world are suffering from severe malnutrition, senior U.N. officials and government representatives stressed at a high-level meeting on nutrition held Sept. 20 at the U.N. headquarters in New York.
The meeting is among the numerous side events at the ongoing U.N. General Assembly and is held a year after the launch of the Scale Up Nutrition Movement. Dubbed as SUN, this global initiative aims to improve child nutrition and maternal health by focusing on the critical 1,000 days between pregnancy and a child’s second birthday.
Among those present at the meeting was U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, who confirmed her country’s commitment to the movement. Clinton outlined what the United States has done since SUN was launched and what it aims to accomplish in the remaining days of the initiative. This includes increasing U.S. funding for nutrition initiatives, putting nutrition at the heart of its Global Health Initiative and Feed the Future initiative, and rethinking the way it delivers food aid during emergencies.
Two senior U.N. officials, meanwhile, stressed the need to end child stunting — an irreversible condition that is among the most common effects of malnutrition during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. UNICEF Executive Director Anthony Lake recognized the efforts already implemented by members of SUN, but pressed countries, non-governmental organizations and private firms to do more and “build on this momentum.”
The complete eradication of child stunting should be the priority of the SUN movement, World Food Program Executive Director Josette Sheeran added.
“Don’t look at targets and goals that are different than the total eradication of child stunting in the world,” she said at the meeting. “This is doable. It makes business sense. It makes economic sense.”
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