Singapore, April 8, 2013 – As government, medical, academic and industry representatives gather at the first regional World Health Summit in Singapore, a group of nutrition organisations including global non-government organisations and Royal DSM called for urgent action to ensure adequate nutrition for children in their first 1,000 days of life.
A third of all children in Asia are stunted, or too short for their age – a key indicator of chronic malnutrition. Malnutrition during a child’s critical early years damages their intellectual and physical development, limiting their future economic participation, and increases their vulnerability to non-communicable diseases (NCDs) in adulthood. The World Bank estimates that India, where 48% of children are stunted and over 30% of children are born with a low birth weight, loses approximately 3% of annual GDP due to malnutrition.
The nutrition group, which includes World Vision, Save the Children, the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), the Essential Micronutrients Foundation, Sight and Life, and industry partner Royal DSM, called on Summit delegates to commit to nutrition support as a key input to sustainable health and economic development outcomes. It called on governments to promote adequate health and nutrition for women of reproductive age, particularly pregnant and lactating women, to ensure their children have a head-start in good nutritional status. Through public-private partnerships, the private sector can support countries in improving diets by fortifying staples and making vitamin and mineral supplements affordable to the poor.
“The nutritional challenges faced by millions of children across Asia, coupled with increased economic inequality, can only be tackled through strong public-private partnerships. This combination of expertise and experience, with a profound sense of responsibility, is the very best tool we have for ridding the world of malnutrition,” said Stephan Tanda, Managing Board Member of Royal DSM, on behalf of the group, adding that it welcomed interest and participation from key stakeholders across both sectors.
Singapore’s successes in maternal and child health can serve as a model for other countries. Since its independence, the country has achieved one of the lowest infant and under-five mortality rates in the world. With its strategic location and regional hub status in Asia, Singapore can play an important role in fostering greater public-private partnerships in the region to improve nutrition in the first 1,000 days.
Malnutrition is associated with poor feeding practices and other lack of access clean water, sanitation, healthcare, social protection and initiatives to empower women. There is compelling evidence connecting maternal nutrition to increased risks in their offspring of developing chronic disease, particularly diabetes and heart disease, later in life. Both under-nutrition and over-nutrition can have long term adverse effects. Of particular concern is the rapidly rising incidence of gestational diabetes and maternal obesity in Asia, which has major implications for the next generation.
“Economic growth alone will not solve the world’s nutrition problems – political leadership is absolutely necessary,” asserted the group. “Governments must understand that investing in both mother and child nutrition, especially in the first 1000 days, means investing in their country’s economic future.”
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