New UN initiative seeks to give children better start by boosting nutrition for mothers

Photo: World Bank/Maria Fleischmann

7 June 2013 – Two United Nations agencies are launching a new partnership to improve nutrition among pregnant and breastfeeding women to ensure that children get a good start toward a healthy and productive life.

The new initiative, from the World Food Programme (WFP) and the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), aims to reduce the number of low birth weight babies and stunted children, who, as a result, grow up plagued by health problems and experience a detrimental impact on their learning and economic potential.

“When a mother consumes a nutritious and balanced diet before and after giving birth, her baby thrives,” WFP Executive Director Ertharin Cousin said in a news release. “Providing women, particularly adolescent girls, with access to nutritious food cements the next generation’s opportunity for a healthy and productive future.”

The partnership supports the “1,000 Days” initiative, which focuses on improving nutrition in the first 1,000 days between the start of woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday.

“As the global community enters a final push to achieve the MDGs, maternal health remains the goal that lags furthest behind,” said UNFPA Executive Director Babatunde Osotimehin, referring to the set of global anti-poverty targets known as the Millennium Development Goals that world leaders have pledged to achieve by 2015.

“Maternal nutrition can play an essential role to improve pregnancy outcomes for both the mother and her newborn child,” he noted. “Evidence suggests that programmes designed to improve access to healthy foods and support positive eating behaviour amongst young women can decrease maternal and child mortality, and also provide adolescents energy and strength to stay in school and better prepare them to enter the workforce.”

The agencies are planning to roll out pilot programmes in Burkina Faso, Sierra Leone and Zambia, where they will focus on improving nutrition among women prior to, during and after pregnancy, continuing until the child reaches 6 months of age.

At the same time, the new programme will explore ways of providing adolescent girls with more general nutritional support, which is essential, the agencies stated, to empower them, allowing them to make healthy reproductive choices, stay in school and avoid early marriage.

The new partnership is being launched ahead of tomorrow’s “Nutrition for Growth” summit in London which aims to address the nutritional needs of women throughout pregnancy and breastfeeding.


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