Rio+20: UN agencies say tackling child hunger crucial to achieving ‘the future we want’

20 June 2012

United Nations agencies today stressed the need to tackle child hunger and undernutrition in the pursuit of sustainable development, highlighting a joint initiative that offers practical and effective approaches to combat this problem in the most affected countries.

Under the REACH initiative, the World Food Programme (WFP), the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the World Health Organization (WHO) have committed to a renewed effort against child hunger and undernutrition.

In a joint news release, the agencies said that the main causes of child undernutrition – food insecurity, poor health and inappropriate care – are all known and preventable. In addition, governments and other actors know why nutrition interventions are necessary and there is evidence for what works, when and where.

“The greatest challenge, however, is how to scale up programmes so that they can have a real impact, and this is where the REACH approach can provide direction,” the UN agencies said.

REACH coordinates different agencies and engages various sectors to build national programmes to prevent some of the consequences of child undernutrition such as stunting.

“We’re sending small teams into countries – two people only – we’re sharing knowledge, we’re looking at what the problem is, we’re working with the government, we’re bringing various ministries together, and look for ways of how we can tackle child hunger in these countries,” a WFP spokesperson, Bettina Luescher, said in an interview.

“The whole idea is to share knowledge to come up with good projects that really tackle the issues and do it in a very un-bureaucratic way,” she added.

REACH is currently operational in Bangladesh, Ethiopia, Ghana, Mali, Mauritania, Mozambique, Nepal, Niger, Rwanda, the Sahel region of West Africa, Sierra Leone, Tanzania and Uganda.

The UN agencies stressed that initiatives such as REACH are crucial to building a strong foundation for achieving global sustainable development goals – the focus of the UN Conference on Sustainable Development (Rio+20) that began today in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. The three-day forum seeks to shape new policies to promote global prosperity, reduce poverty and advance social equity and environmental protection.

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