Stronger partnerships and industry support are needed to meet the demand for life-saving nutrition products for children, which has reached an all time-high, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) reported yesterday.
In a two-day meeting in Denmark with almost 100 UNICEF partners, the Director of the agency’s Supply Division Shanelle Hall urged the nutrition industry to “help civil society, governments and the UN to find solutions to this human crisis.”
She remarked that the Horn of Africa – where a drought has left millions of people dependent on humanitarian aid – was a “harsh reminder of the importance of sustained nutrition programmes and the ability to provide a rapid response” to the more than 20 million children worldwide estimated to be suffering from severe and acute malnutrition.
“Compared to 2010, we expect an increase of 50 per cent in nutrition products by 2012, but this is still only sufficient to help 15 per cent of the children facing starvation,” Ms. Hall said.
According to a news release issued by the agency, the demand for nutrition supplies ranges from ready-to-use therapeutic food (RUTF) – the most common treatment for malnutrition among children under the age of five – to children’s weighing scales.
“Together with our partners and industry we have to ensure that we can meet the need by increasing production capacity, encouraging new suppliers and supporting the development of innovations in product development,” Ms. Hall said.
During the meeting, UNICEF focused on the most pressing demands to ensure that communities in need have access to the right products.
Participants also focused on the global production of supplementary food, such as corn soya blend flour, which feeds thousands of families in the drought and famine in Somalia and neighbouring countries.
Among the practical partnerships discussed was the work between Médecins Sans Frontières, the World Food Programme (WFP) and UNICEF to implement a standardized quality system for producing therapeutic and supplementary food.
This was the second UNICEF consultative meeting with manufacturers, suppliers and other partners to discuss ways to manage different types of malnutrition in children and mothers, as well as the technical issues on supplying nutrition products.