Ha Noi, 4 April 2012 – Viet Nam’s General Nutrition Survey 2009 - 2010 report, launched today in Ha Noi, reveals that one in three children under age five in Viet Nam do not currently meet their full height potential—which is linked with serious consequences on cognitive, social, and economic outcomes. Stunting, or being too short for one’s age, is an irreversible outcome of chronic nutritional deficiency during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. And the damage it causes to a child’s development is permanent. The government is aiming to address this through its 2011-2020 National Nutrition Strategy, also launched today.
The nutrition survey was carried out throughout 2009 and 2010 by the National Institute of Nutrition (NIN), as entrusted by the Ministry of Health and in close collaboration with UNICEF, the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Food Agriculture Organization (FAO), through the United Nations Joint Programme on Integrated Nutrition and Food Security Strategies, which is supported by the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) Achievement Fund . It provides a comprehensive, updated picture of the nutritional situation of children and mothers in Viet Nam, which complements and adds more depth to the existing annual nutrition surveillance processes.
“The findings of this comprehensive report provide vital data in the areas of food consumption, infant and young child feeding practices and food safety,” said Mr. Rajen Kumar Sharma, UNICEF Viet Nam’s Deputy Representative a.i. “There has been a notable reduction of stunting over the last years, however the prevalence is still high and the General Nutrition Survey has revealed emergent socio-economic disparities as well as among provinces and disadvantaged areas.”
The report indeed shows that the stunting rate among children in remote and hard-to reach areas is twice as high as the stunting rate among their peers in plain areas. Current scientific evidence shows that stunting is the most valid indicator to reflect potential growth and development of a child in the future, and reflects the potential for social and economic development of a country. The damage stunting causes to a child’s development is permanent. That child will never learn, nor earn, as much as he or she could have if properly nourished in early life. The time from conception, through pregnancy and the first two years of life provides a “critical window of opportunity” to prevent and reverse stunting before its effects are permanent.
“The 2011-2012 National Nutrition Strategy focuses on stunting reduction and should therefore be seen as an investment plan, and we are gathered here today to call for all stakeholders’ investment,” Sharma said. “Provincial stunting reduction action plans will be developed and enforced with focus on reaching the unreached. This will also include implementation to scale of an essential package of proven, feasible interventions applicable to Viet Nam to reduce stunting. High coverage of these effective, yet low-cost, feasible interventions needs to be achieved in the short term.”
The package of interventions will be implemented through integration within existing health services and communication with the communities. It will build upon Viet Nam’s strong health system that is able to deliver quality interventions with high coverage. Some interventions will require outreach services and home visits and will utilise the existing systems of village health workers and the Women’s Union.
“Malnutrition remains a major challenge in Viet Nam, especially in remote and hard-to-reach areas and those regularly affected by natural disasters. Meanwhile we face new challenges with the rise of obesity, especially in urban centres. This situation requires early and timely interventions so we do not follow the same road as other middle income countries,” said Mr. Nguyen Viet Tien, Vice-Minister of Health. The report shows that nationally close to 6 per cent of children under-five are overweight and obese, and in Ho Chi Minh city and Hanoi this rises to 12-15%. The national rate is six times higher than it was in 2000.
"Within the Delivering as One UN framework, UNICEF and other agencies are committed to continue supporting the Government of Viet Nam through our assistance to the National Institute of Nutrition in the implementation of Viet Nam’s Nutrition Strategy 2011-2020,” added Rajen Kumar Sharma. “The United Nations places great importance on stunting reduction in Viet Nam, and this is the call to all stakeholders to ensure every child in Viet Nam has a chance of reaching his or her, full physical and mental potential."
UNICEF works in more than 190 countries and territories to help children survive and thrive, from early childhood through adolescence. The world’s largest provider of vaccines for developing countries, UNICEF supports child health and nutrition, good water and sanitation, quality basic education for all boys and girls, and the protection of children from violence, exploitation, and AIDS. UNICEF is funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of individuals, businesses, foundations and governments.
- Speech of UNICEF Deputy Representative, a.i Rajen Kumar Sharma at the launch of the General Nutrition Survey and 2011-2020 National Nutrition Strategy
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