In West Africa, Liberia holds the highest child and maternal mortality rates and the two factors that encourage this are malnutrition and anaemia.
However to combat this the United Nations Children Education Fund (UNICEF), the Ministry of Health (MOH), and non-governmental organizations in the country are working tirelessly to ensure that parents know that breastfeeding a child exclusively within the first 1000 days or before two years old would help a child develop into a healthy adult.
The greatest vulnerability to nutritional deficiencies occurs very early in life- starting from the time in womb to the first two years of life or the first 1,000 days of life. This period is also when the brain develops significantly, around 80%.
If a child is undernourished during this critical window of opportunity, cognitive development is compromised with irreversible damages.
Malnutrition accounts for more than 1/3rd of child deaths and is also the key factor for maternal deaths. Chronic malnutrition has been an enduring problem at 42%. Due to low iron in diet, more than 60% of children still suffer from anaemia (low blood).
In Monrovia, more than 1/3rd of mothers bottle feed their babies, which is a very serious concern as it increases risks of infections and child death.
The Executive Director of UNICEF, Anthony Lake when launching the New UNICEF Global Report “Improving Child Nutrition: The achievable imperative for global progress”, No child, no mother, no country should ever have to suffer the injustice of a lack of nutrition in the 21st century. What is more unjust, crueler, than condemning a child, in the womb, to life of deprivation, especially when we know how to prevent it? Surely, if we know how to do so, and have the means to do so, there can be no reason not to do so.”
Some 165 million children under the age of five are afflicted by stunting in the world today. It is a violation of their rights and it is also a huge burden for nations whose future citizens will be neither healthy nor as productive as they could have been.