Remarks by Ertharin Cousin on UNICEF’s Improving Child Nutrition: The Achievable Imperative for Global Progress

Delivered on: 15 April 2013


Thank you very much, Tom, for that very kind introduction.  I should just tell you, I’m not a former resident of Chicago; if you’re a resident of Chicago, you’re always a resident of Chicago.

Let me very quickly say that WFP supports this report and applauds its focus on stunting prevention as a rallying point for multisectoral cooperation and collaboration.  We agree that stunting prevention is essential for growth and development of both individuals and nations, as Tony and the Minister have so clearly pointed out.

We also must realize that stunting and other forms of chronic undernutrition are clear indicators of social inequity among the most vulnerable in our world.

We especially welcome the importance this report gives to ensuring good nutrition for pregnant and lactating women.  I love the picture on this report’s cover because so often we talk about the child and we forget the mother; and in the 1,000 days, we cannot forget the mother.  Reaching these women during their first months of pregnancy remains one of our greatest challenges, particularly in communities where women have limited access to health services.

While improving our technical understanding of the nutritional requirements of pregnant and lactating women, we must also look ahead to how best to get this support to women and children through delivery systems, specialized products, and complementary activities – such as education and communication – that are both culturally sensitive and sustainable.  We must strengthen our collaboration with the people we serve to ensure that the tools we bring reach those most in need.

We know that more research is needed to identify the most cost-effective interventions for the most vulnerable and we aim to develop the partnerships that are essential to making this work a reality.

There’s been much talk this afternoon about SUN (Scaling Up Nutrition) and David Nabarro’s work leading us all as the SUN leadership community, the SUN Business Network, but most importantly, the SUN movement.  Because that’s what it is, that’s what it represents, that’s what’s required:  a movement that starts at country level and is supported by global action to ensure the work that is required is performed.

In this same context, we must continue to encourage South-South collaboration and extend the experiences of governments that have succeeded in combatting hunger and malnutrition. Remarkably, Brazil moved more than 30 million people out of extreme poverty and into the lower middle income class in less than a decade while simultaneously and dramatically reducing the prevalence of stunting.

It can be done.

This report’s finding that stunting and other forms of undernutrition signal societal inequities and are clear markers for poverty and underdevelopment comes at a critical time.  The conversation we’re having today – not just on this stage, but in these halls, over today and tomorrow – is an ongoing conversation.  This conversation will continue in June and will go on to the General Assembly.  It becomes part of building the post-2015 agenda; which must include the elimination of chronic undernutrition, chronic malnourishment, if we are going to move towards sustainable development.

We must not just address the challenges, but we must complete this work.

In closing, I want to reaffirm that WFP’s vision is fully aligned with this report.  UNICEF, Tony, all of you, can count on WFP as your partner in continuing in the engagement and supporting the advocacy that is required to keep the public will, to maintain and grow that public will, that is required to ensure we perform the work that is necessary in the first 1,000 days to make a difference for the children of today and tomorrow.

Thank you.