By Kul Gautam
Deputy Executive Director
United Nations Children’s Fund ( UNICEF)
22 Jun 2003
A month ago at the United Nations, nearly 400 children – all delegates to the Special Session on Children – join leaders of the world to proclaim their determination to create a world fit for children.
Why? Because, they said, a world fit for children is a world fit for all.
UNICEF counts on the outcome of the Special Session here of the World Food Summit convened under the leadership and guidance of FAO to be a major contribution to reaching the Millennium Development Goals to help create such a world fit for children.
Children must be at the centre of the world’s food and nutrition agenda their nutrition and well-being are at the heart of sustainable development and the foundation of a healthy, productive society.
Ensuring children’s right to good nutrition requires multi-sectoral acction and partnerships. UNICEF welcomes recognition of this in the Declaration of the Summit here.
Conventional wisdom would have it that malnutrition comes from a lack of food or an unbalanced diet. Yet, there are at least four types of hunger:
– The first hunger most obvious hunger is for food. When delegates at this Summit speak about 800 million people living in hunger, this is the kind of hunger they refer to.
– The second hunger, which has not been talked much about at this Conference, is the “hidden hunger” for micronutrients. These are minerals and vitamins such as iodine, iron, and vitamin A, necessary for cognitive development, better school performance, and school productivity.
– The third type of hunger is the need of children and women for adequate care and nursering, without which food alone cannot provide good nutrition.
– The fourth hunger is for safe and sanitary environment – including safe water, clean air, and sanitation – so essential for promoting health, growth and nutrition.
We can overcome these hungers only by taking a holistic, life-cycle approach, ensuring that all children get the best start in life, that there is primary health care and basic education provided in all communities – and by promoting healthy lifestyle among adolescents and adults.
We are delighted that so many leaders at the Summit had reaffirmed a similar approach to combact child malnutritin. Madam Chair, breastmilk is the human being’s first food. We must make support for breastfeeding and maternal nutrition, the first action of family food security.
Good nutrition is not just about quantity of food, but also its quality. We must use the power and cost-effectiveness of micronutrients to enhance the nutritional value of food.
Over the past decade, we have seen remarkable progress in the reduction of iodine and vitamin A deficiency. But progress in reducing the dangerous effects of anaemia in women and children has lagged behind. Yet anaemia is the single most prevalent cause of micronutrient malnutrition in the world affecting more than two billion people. We must redouble our efforts to combine knowledge and resources from different partners to significantly reduce anaemia in the coming decade.
Women are the guardians of family food security. Strenghtening the role of girls and women and meeting the critical food security needs of communities devastated by HIV/AIDS, especially in sub-Saharan Africa must be high priority on our development agenda.
As the Secretary General of the United Nations said yesterday, the world produces enough food to feed every man, woman and child on earth. Hunger and malnutrition and therefore not due to lack of food alone, but are mainly a consequence of poverty, inequality and misplaced priorities.
We welcome this Summit call for an international alliance against hunger. Let us make combating child malnutrition a major focus of this alliance. The Code of Children had an amazing mobilizing power, results for children can be used at the spring board for all any other action called for in our Summit Declaration.
Distinguished Delegates, many of you are here has Ministers of Agriculture, we ask that when you return home you try to become Ministers of Nutrition outcomes for your children UNICEF stands ready to work with you. It is your leadership resolve an action that will have build a world fit for children that would be a world fit for ourselves.