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Child nutrition crisis in Marshall Islands sparks intervention plan

The sobering statistic that the expansion of 1 in three Marshall Islands youngsters is stunted has propelled President Hilda Heine and the Marshall Islands authorities to launch a serious effort to enhance early childhood nutrition and health standing.

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A just lately carried out nationwide survey of younger youngsters in the Marshall Islands confirmed that poor nutrition has brought about progress stunting in 35 % of these surveyed, stated officers in Majuro.

It was carried out by the United Nations youngsters’s group, UNICEF, in live performance with the Marshall Islands authorities. The ultimate report is predicted to be issued subsequent week for a gathering of RMI officers and donor company representatives scheduled for Majuro to deal with the issue.

President Heine stated the outcomes of the survey affirm the severity of the nutrition drawback plaguing the Marshall Islands.

“We need to focus on our people by providing earlier intervention,” she stated. “The first 1,000 days of a child’s life are critical and can impact their entire lives, both their physical and cognitive development.”

The President stated the issue of poor nutrition for Marshallese youngsters is not new, however the survey confirms the necessity to take motion to enhance the state of affairs.

Without motion to deal with this drawback, “we are losing generations of Marshallese who will not be as productive as they could be,” she stated.

Heine met with a vice chairman of the World Bank through the Pacific Islands Forum assembly in Samoa just lately to debate the priority about baby health.

“We received a very enthusiastic response from the World Bank,” she stated.

The financial institution is now contemplating funding a multi-year early childhood health venture.

The roundtable assembly in Majuro on November 15 will deliver collectively representatives of UNICEF and the World Bank with key gamers in Health, Education, non-government teams and others to give attention to this difficulty.

Chief Secretary Ben Graham stated the truth that one-in-three youngsters “are not getting a good start” is having a life-long influence on Marshall Islanders. “It explains why children don’t perform well in school later in life,” he added.

Surveys carried out of city youngsters in the Marshall Islands because the 1990s have proven that the majority eat no vegatables and fruits and the typical main faculty baby lives off a weight loss plan heavy on packaged junk food, white rice, white flour donuts and pancakes, ramen noodles, and canned meat.

Heine stated it’s important the issue of poor youngster nutrition be attacked by a multi-agency strategy.

For instance, she stated:

Breast-feeding insurance policies – “breastfeeding only for the first six months of life” – from the 1990s must be revived and promoted.

School lunch program must be offered and the nutrition worth of meals offered must be evaluated to enhance what youngsters are consuming through the day.

Availability of native food must be elevated.

She stated it was good to see the initiative of newly set up gardens on a small island in Kwajalein Atoll. “Serious efforts need to be taken (to grow local foods),” Heine stated. “We need to use vacant land to improve food security. We need to address the nutrition problem from different sectors of the community.”

“This is a perfect example of an issue that cannot be handled by one agency,” stated Graham. He stated the goal of subsequent week’s assembly is to develop a three-to-four yr plan to deal with the nutrition issues.

He stated the Marshall Islands’ initiative is well timed as a result of there’s rising international curiosity in focusing larger consideration on the primary 1,000 days of youngsters’s lives. A Pacific Early Childhood Development Conference in Fiji in September issued a name for motion.

“We’re getting a jump start on it,” Graham stated. While acknowledging the nation’s childhood nutrition drawback has been creating for a very long time, Graham added that “we haven’t been effectively addressing it.”

Heine famous that the World Bank has experience in this space. The financial institution supported a long-term program to reverse childhood nutrition issues in Peru, which 17 years in the past was in an identical state of affairs because the Marshall Islands with 31 % of its youngsters displaying stunted progress.

By final yr, Peru had lowered the stunting drawback to 13 %, stated the President.

The nutrition survey outcome “is a wake up call for us,” stated Heine. “We must ensure support for families is there.”


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