Afghanistan took a critical step in efforts to fight one of the highest undernutrition rates in the world yesterday, with the launching a National Nutrition Strategy that provides the roadmap for partnership, investments and action, as announced by UNICEF.
In 2017, Afghanistan was the 60th country to become a member of the Scaling up Nutrition Movement and the Afghanistan Food Security and Nutrition Agenda was launched – a multi sector platform to address malnutrition.
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“We have wide political support being at the highest level, being either the President of Afghanistan, who endorsed nutrition as a major agenda, or, the CEO, Chief Executive Officer, who is leading the major nutrition meeting himself”, says Dewa Samad, Deputy Minister, Ministry of Public Health Afghanistan.
Speaking on the day of launch, on behalf of the One UN for Nutrition – UNICEF, WFP and WHO- UNICEF Deputy Representative, Sheema Sen Gupta said “This strategy is a heartening example of partnership between Government, the UN, Donors and the private sector that will serve the best interests of the people of Afghanistan.”
“We are grateful for the enormous efforts made by the Ministry of Public Health in tackling undernutrition by ensuring that preventive and treatment nutritional services are reaching women and children, Gupta added.
Nearly two million children under the age of five suffer in Afghanistan from ‘chronic undernutrition’, which results in stunted growth and delayed mental development.
About 4 out of 10 children are stunted and are likely to suffer from irreversible physical, mental and social development loss, impacting significantly on school achievement and economic productivity.
An estimated 1 in 10 children are wasted, making them more vulnerable to disease and death. Approximately 1.4 million children under five years of age require treatment for acute malnutrition annually, including about 600,000 who suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM).
An estimated 3 out of 10 adolescent girls (31%) are anaemic. Moderate to severe anaemia can adversely affect growth and development, cognitive and learning capabilities among young people.
In implementing the National Nutrition Strategy, UNICEF says that Afghanistan can secure the opportunity for children to be well nourished in life so that we can protect and secure its future – as the greatest investment and the prosperity of this nation lies in its children.