Bollywood legend Aamir Khan has become the UN Children’s Fund’s (UNICEF) latest Ambassador to South Asia, the Organization announced today, adding that the award winning Indian actor, director, and producer would work to promote the right of the region’s children to nutrition, with a focus on ending stunting.
“I am delighted to become an Ambassador for UNICEF in South Asia. I hope my messages on the importance of children’s nutrition will urge parents, families, and leaders at all levels to support and adopt proven services and nutrition practices that will help children grow and develop to their full potential,” Mr. Khan told a news conference in the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu, where he took part in the launch of a national nutritional campaign.
“Child stunting remains one of the greatest development challenges to South Asia. Stunted children have stunted bodies, stunted brains, and stunted lives. Compared with children who are not stunted, stunted children have poorer cognitive development, often enrol later in school, complete fewer grades, and learn less well – leading to reduced productivity and income-earning in adult life” he added.
After sub-Saharan Africa, South Asia is the region with the highest number of deaths of children under the age of five. An estimated 2.3 million children under the age of five perished in 2011 alone. At the same time, 38 per cent of children under the age of five in South Asia suffer from stunted growth due to chronic under nutrition while an estimated 28 per cent of children are born with low birth weight, largely due to women’s poor nutrition during and before pregnancy.
“With the immense respect that Aamir Khan commands across South Asia, we are convinced that Aamir will make a lasting difference in the fight against child stunting, potentially the biggest threat to children’s growth and development in this part of the world,” said Karin Hulshof, UNICEF Regional Director for South Asia.
During his visit to Nepal, Mr. Khan also took part in the launch of the “1,000 Golden Days” national nutrition campaign.
According to UNICEF, the most crucial time to meet a child’s nutritional needs is during the 1,000 days from conception to the child’s second birthday. Proven and effective interventions during this time can prevent malnutrition and drastically reduce the prevalence of stunting in young children.