Malnutrition: the most effective interventions must be prioritised
Malnutrition is a medical and humanitarian emergency that accounts for 11 percent of the global burden of disease, contributing to the death of between 3.5 million and 5 million children aged under-five each year, and leading to long-term poor health, disability and poor educational and development outcomes. Worldwide, 178 million children are underweight, and 20 million suffer from the most deadly form of severe acute malnutrition each year.
A global policy “Scaling up nutrition: a framework for action” has been developed under the auspices of the World Bank, with inputs from a number of key stakeholders, researchers, donors and recipient countries, UN Agencies, international non-governmental organisations, and economists. MSF is encouraged that a key component foresees the scaling up of direct interventions, in particular feeding for malnourished children.
There is now broad consensus on a public health package of effective key interventions, in addition to the promotion of breastfeeding, to treat undernutrition and protect children from acute malnutrition. The importance of addressing nutrition during the ‘window of opportunity’ in a child’s life (up to 24 months) is also recognised in order to avoid irreversible damage. Equally, the crucial role played by “inadequate food intake” as a major cause of undernutrition is highlighted. The development of strategies fully owned by recipient countries, and the need to provide predictable financial support are acknowledged as essential.