Save the Children welcomes Health Minister’s call for better nutrition for mothers and children at launch of National Nutrition Month

Tuesday 5 August 2014

We want to ensure that mothers receive better support in communities and at health facilities to practice exclusive breastfeeding, said the Health Minister at the launch of National Nutrition Month in Myanmar on August 1st 2014.

At the event in Nay Pyi Taw, the Minister also expressed plans to improve coverage of vitamin A supplements to children and lactating mothers, and to expand and ensure effective distribution of iron tablets to adolescent girls and women. He also noted that they want to engage in more effective food fortification efforts nationwide.

In recent months, Myanmar has taken significant steps towards improving maternal and child nutrition. In March this year, the Ministry of Labour passed a bill that provides women working in government with six months of maternity leave, which would support mothers in breastfeeding their children exclusively. Just two weeks ago, the government had also adopted The International Code of Marketing of Breastmilk Substitutes to promote exclusive breastfeeding and protect communities.

Efforts to improve nutrition require sustained momentum. Globally, malnutrition is the underlying cause of 45 per cent of all child deaths and illnesses. In Myanmar, one third of all children suffer from chronic malnutrition (also called ‘stunting’), meaning they do not grow optimally. Stunting negatively impacts on a child’s mental and physical development, and is difficult to reverse in children over age two. 

Although malnutrition affects a high proportion of the population, simple and cost-effective solutions exist that can help ensure a generation of well-nourished and healthy children. These solutions focus on the first 1,000 days from pregnancy through a child’s 2nd birthday, and include promoting exclusive breastfeeding, food fortification, micronutrient supplements and increased dietary diversity.

“As we approach the 500 day mark to the end of the UN Millennium Development Goals, it is important that we reflect on the progress in Myanmar. Tackling the issue of nutrition and equity in nutrition will inevitably have an overwhelming impact on child and maternal mortality and a child’s ability to succeed in school,” said Dr San San Myint, Program Manager of the Civil Society Alliance for the Scale Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, hosted by Save the Children in Myanmar. 

“Investments in nutrition, along with improved food security, clean water and sanitation as well as quality health services, impact positively on children’s lives.”

Save the Children’s nutrition programme in Myanmar utilizes a multi-sectoral approach to prevent and treat malnutrition in the poorest and most vulnerable children and families. In communities all over the country, mothers are supported to exclusively breastfeed and provide appropriate first foods to their children through community-based BCC activities. Households and communities benefit from improved livelihoods and income opportunities.  Malnourished children are identified and referred to appropriate treatment centres. At the policy level, Save the Children works closely with government to Scale Up Nutrition and roll out the National Plan of Action for Food and Nutrition, along with other INGOs, and local partners to advocate for improved nutrition in Myanmar.

As world leaders race against time to meet their development commitments to children, sustained momentum and increased investments are needed to tackle the issue of malnutrition.

Let’s make nutrition a year-round focus, not just for the month of August, said the Health Minister in closing.