Preventing malnutrition to allow children to reach their full potential
by FAO, WHO, UNHCR, UNICEF, WFP, OCHA
As principals of the United Nations humanitarian system, we have all looked into the blank stare and nearly lifeless body of a badly malnourished child, whose ever-so shallow breathing is often the only sign of life. We have all been deeply affected when a child could not be saved.
But we have also witnessed the tireless work that United Nations staff and humanitarian partners do every day – often in dangerous environments – so that children on the brink of death can recover and so that hungry children lacking enough nutritious food do not fall to that level.
Every year, the United Nations provides 10 million children suffering from acute malnutrition (“wasting”) with services they need to recover, including nutrition treatment, treatment of infections such as diarrheal diseases, hygiene and sanitation services, and access to clean water and the nutritious diets needed for heathy growth.
Two million malnourished pregnant women and new mothers received food supplementation to improve their nutrition and that of their baby.
The United Nations also supports millions more children every year so that they do not fall into a state of malnutrition, by promoting, protecting and supporting breastfeeding and adequate access to healthy and nutritious diet at all times.
Yet the number of hungry people in the world has increased in recent years. Now they number 820 million.
In addition, nearly 50 million of children under the age of five are “wasted” – that is children suffering from acute malnutrition, marked by their being underweight for their height.
And 149 million are “stunted” – that is suffering stunted growth in height and development caused by malnutrition.
For many children, undernutrition begins in the womb due to mothers not being able to access the healthy diets they need.
The children who survive these risky pregnancies and the first critical months of life are more likely to have some form of malnutrition - being stunted or wasted - and millions suffer both forms at the same time.
These children are much more likely to die before the age of 5 because their immunity to infections is weakened by a lack of nutrients.
Those who survive may go on to suffer poor growth and mental development.
In many cases, their cognitive development is permanently impaired, and they perform worse in school and are less productive as adults. They are at greater risk of living a life in poverty, which means their children will be more likely to suffer the same fate.
Breaking the intergenerational transmission cycle of malnutrition is key to eradicating malnutrition in all its forms and to reach Sustainable Development Goals by 2030.
To draw attention to the growing problem of malnutrition and bring the international community together for an integrated response, the United Nations will launch the State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World to share the latest information on the number of individuals in the world suffering from hunger and the number of children still wasted and stunted.
We are working to build environments that ensure access to healthy and nutritious diets and ensure families with acutely malnourished children can access life-saving treatments, including in their communities and outreach clinics so they do not have to travel up to hundreds of miles to get a child to a clinic.
The United Nations is working to prevent malnutrition with increased efforts, especially for households with infants and children, in livelihood development, social protection measures, and accessible health services that can result in increased consumption of healthy and nutritious diets, and healthy growth and development.
With conflict driving much of the growth in hunger and malnutrition in recent years, we are working to advance treatment and prevention for acute malnutrition in complex emergencies.
Recognizing, that the larger burden of malnutrition in terms of absolute numbers affected is outside of conflict, we are also working to encourage governments to enhance prevention and treatment programmes for all forms of malnutrition.
Before the end of this year, we will launch the UN Global Plan of Action on Wasting to underscore our commitment to global action over the next decade to dramatically reduce malnutrition before it occurs and to give children the chance to reach their full potential, while working to ensure that children and women suffering from acute malnutrition receive the treatment they need.
To advance action, the United Nations is ready to support member states to develop and implement their policies, programmes and strategies, to address the burden of all forms of malnutrition.
For success, we need the world’s commitment to be matched by the required funding. It is a great investment – for every dollar spent on preventing child malnutrition there is a US$16 return in reduced health costs and increased productivity.
The future of millions of children hangs in the balance. We must not let them down.
# Signatories: David Beasley, Executive Director, World Food Programme; Henrietta Fore, Executive Director, UNICEF; Dr. Tedros Ghebreyesus, Director-General, World Health Organization; Filippo Grandi, United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees; Jose Graziano da Silva, Director-General, Food and Agriculture Organization; Mark Lowcock, Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator
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Countries are off track in meeting their education commitments for 2030
by UNESCO, agencies
United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization
Almost five years since the UN adopted Sustainable Development Goals for the target date of 2030, UNESCO projections show that the countries of the world will fail to meet the educational commitments of that agenda, Sustainable Development Goal 4, unless there is serious progress over the coming decade.
UNESCO projections ahead of the UN High-level Political Forum that is to examine progress in achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, show that when all children should be in school, one in six 6 to 17-year-olds will still be excluded in 2030.
Projections also show that 40% of children worldwide will fail to complete secondary education, a figure that is forecast to reach 50% in sub-Saharan Africa where the proportion of trained teachers has been declining since 2000.
The new projections (Meeting Commitments: Are countries on track to achieve SDG 4?) were produced by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics and the Global Education Monitoring Report. The figures are all the more worrying considering that SDG 4 calls for effective learning, not just for school enrolment.
At current trends, learning rates are expected to stagnate in middle-income countries and drop by almost a third in Francophone African countries in 2030. Furthermore, without rapid acceleration, 20% of young people and 30% of adults in low-income countries will still be unable to read by the target date for the elimination of illiteracy.
The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development emphasizes leaving no-one behind, yet only 4% of the poorest 20% complete upper secondary school in the poorest countries, compared to 36% of the richest. The gap is even wider in lower-middle-income countries.
In 2015, UNESCO’s Global Education Monitoring Report identified an annual funding deficit of $39 billion to achieve SDG 4 but aid to education has stagnated since 2010.
“Countries need more and better data to target policies and make the most of every dollar spent on education,” said the Director of the UNESCO Institute for Statistics, Silvia Montoya.
“Data are a necessity – not a luxury – for all countries. Yet today, fewer than half of countries are able to provide the data needed to monitor progress towards the global education goal. What is the point in setting targets if we can’t track them? Better finance and coordination are needed to support countries, fix this data gap and, most importantly, make progress before we get any closer to the deadline.”
A complementary publication by the Global Education Monitoring Report (Beyond Commitments: How countries implement SDG 4) analyzes policies that countries claim to have put in place since 2015 to achieve educational targets, highlighting the need to align national education plans with SDG4.
Manos Antoninis, Director of the Global Education Monitoring Report: “Countries have interpreted the meaning of the targets in the global education goal very differently. This seems correct given that countries set off from such different starting points. But they must not deviate too much from the promises they made back in 2015. If countries match their plans with their commitments now, they can get back on track by 2030.”
UNESCO data shows one in six children won’t be in school by 2030. (Guardian News)
World leaders have “a lot to answer for” as new figures reveal that governments are failing to give all children an education, and that by 2030 one in six children won’t be in school.
The former prime minister of New Zealand and advocate for education Helen Clark said the figures showed “worrisome complacency on the part of countries which, just a few years ago, were so keen to hammer out an ambitious global agenda and make it a success”.
“Education is slipping down the aid agenda when it should be rising up,” Clark said.
As part of the sustainable development goals, UN members states promised that all children would complete free, equitable and quality primary and secondary education.
But Unesco predicts that by the 2030 deadline, one in six children aged six to 17 still won’t be in education, including one in 11 primary school-aged children.
Taking stock of progress a third of the way towards the deadline for a high-level political forum on sustainable development in New York this week, Unesco analysed responses by 72 governments and key city or municipal authorities, concluding that without a significant acceleration, the world will miss its education commitments.
Researchers found that as well as children continuing to miss out on the chance to go to school, many who do start education are still dropping out. By 2030, they predict that 40% of young people will still not complete secondary education.
“Considering that ‘a good quality education’ was voted young people’s most important priority in 2015 when the SDGs were being decided, leaders today have a lot to answer for. Countries must commit to investing more in education now so that we do not break the global promise made to today’s children and youth,” said Clark, who is chair of the Global Education Monitoring Report advisory board.
“Today’s warning on the education goal has worrying implications for the whole 2030 agenda on sustainable development. It’s never too late to act to correct course, but doing so is now urgent if the global agenda is to be achieved.”
Gordon Brown, former prime minister and the UN’s special envoy on global education, said: “Once again new projections by Unesco show that we are failing our youth by not guaranteeing access to quality education … We need to do more to support and encourage countries to commit to education, which is key to healthy societies.”
In 2018 Brown launched the $10bn (£8bn) International Finance Facility for Education, backed by the UN and the World Bank. He emphasised the need to continue to develop new streams of financing “to provide the means to invest and reform education systems. There is no time to waste.”
Unesco’s snapshot of the global state of education also highlights ongoing inequalities. While literacy rates are improving globally, within low-income countries, projections show that about 20% of young people and 30% of adults will still not be able to read by 2030. An estimated 750 million adults cannot currently read.
In low-income countries, only 4% of the poorest finish upper secondary school and only 2% among the poorest girls, compared with 36% of the richest.
Many governments are adopting policies to try to meet their commitments, including in early and life-long learning, but funding remains an issue.
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