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Persistent failure to tackle malnutrition putting millions of chidren at risk, warn two leading charities

Media Contact:

Holly Frew
World Vision Media Relations Manager

New York, NY (September 21, 2012) Save the Children and World Vision are calling for political promises to be urgently translated into action to avert the deaths of millions of undernourished children, 2.3 million of whom died in 2011 alone.

The two organizations 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 the chief executive of Save the Children International, Jasmine Whitbread. “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.”

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 lies Peru which have shown strong political resolve and committed growing resources to fight child undernutrition, achieving results.

World Vision and Save the Children are calling on world leaders gathering in New York for the UN General Assembly Summit to take urgent measures to tackle child undernutrition. They 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.

World Vision's chief executive Kevin Jenkins, 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.”

The report reveals Peru has demonstrated excellent legal and political commitments matched by strong financial investment. As a result, the proportion of children suffering from chronic undernutrition in 2011, has fallen to 19.5% from 23.8% two years earlier, even though in some regions over half of children still suffer undernutrition.

In India, on the other hand, child undernutrition levels remain persistently high – around 42% according to the last official survey in 2005/6 – due to issues including inadequate spending on health and nutrition, wide economic and social inequality and weak political commitment, though the authorities commitment to tackle child undernutrition is now strengthening.

The barometer warns that it takes time to translate political and economic commitments into results, which explains why actions to tackle the child undernutrition crisis need to be adopted urgently.

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

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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). This event will be co-hosted by Save the Children CEO Jasmine Whitbread and World Vision CEO Kevin Jenkins.

The Nutrition Barometer aims to provide a snapshot of national governments’ commitments and progress in addressing children’s nutrition. It builds on existing indices such as the Global Hunger Index (GHI) produced by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI) and the Hunger Reduction Commitment Index (HRCI) released by the Institute of Development Studies. It analyzes 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.

About World Vision:
World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families, and their communities worldwide reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injutice. We serve the world's poor — regardless of religion, race, ethnicity or gender. For more information on their efforts, visit WorldVision.org/press or follow them on Twitter at @WorldVisionNews

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