Persistent failure to tackle malnutrition putting millions of children at risk, warn leading Australian aid agencies

Save the Children and World Vision are calling for urgent action to help avert the deaths of millions of undernourished children, 2.3 million of whom died in 2011 alone.

The two aid agencies have launched a Nutrition Barometer which assesses governments’ political, legal and financial commitments to tackling malnutrition in the 36 countries where 90% of the world’s undernourished children live. Almost a quarter of these countries have shown little progress in tackling this silent crisis.

“The Nutrition Barometer seeks to hold countries and donors accountable to their pledges to reduce child undernutrition. As the barometer reveals, in many countries words and actions are very far apart,” said Save the Children’s Director of Advocacy James McDougall. “We urgently need to reverse this trend to save children’s lives and to prevent millions more children becoming physically and developmentally stunted in the years ahead.”

World Vision Australia's chief executive Tim Costello said: “It’s proven that good governance is crucial to address children malnutrition. This demands not just political promises, but also strong nutrition strategies backed by sustained, long-term investments, in order for every child to have the best start to life.”

Strikingly, India appears at the bottom of the list despite experiencing strong economic growth in the past few years. At the other end of the spectrum is Peru which has shown strong political resolve and committed growing resources to fight child undernutrition, achieving results.

World Vision and Save the Children are calling on the Australian government and other world leaders gathering in New York for the UN General Assembly summit to take urgent measures to tackle child undernutrition. The agencies warn that unless promises are translated into swift action, the ambitious commitment made at the World Health Assembly earlier this year to reduce the number of stunted children by 40%, by 2025, will not be met.

Crucially, the accountability report identifies opportunities for governments to fulfil their promises. Specifically, the new barometer suggests that good governance can play a key role to achieve success in fighting child undernutrition, as reflected in 13 countries representing over a third of the sample.

2012 has been a critical year for action on nutrition with several global leaders reaffirming their commitment to tackling malnutrition at the G8 and the London Hunger Summit. The 36 countries in this report can save millions of lives and reduce the number of stunted children by 64 million between now and 2025. But this requires political will and commitments, followed by decisive action.

For more information or to organise interviews please call Ian Woolverton (Save the Children) on 0408 001 167 or Kate Rose (World Vision) on 0418 528 683

Nutrition Barometer PDF

Notes to editors:

The Nutrition Barometer will be launched at the UNGA in New York on Wednesday, 26 September, at 8am at Sentry Centers (730 3rd Ave). It aims to provide a snapshot of national governments’ commitments and progress in addressing children’s nutrition, analyses commitments made by each country’s government to fight undernutrition and attempts to understand how these commitments move with children’s nutrition status.

The figure of 36 countries accounting for 90% of the world’s malnourished children being able to reduce the number of stunted children by some 64 million by 2025 comes from research carried out by Save the Children.

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