By Janjay F. Campbell
United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) Representative to Liberia, Tatjana Colin says good nutrition is essential for survival, growth and development of children and it is a necessary component for social and economic advancement.
Ms. Colin who spoke at the launch of the photo exhibition on Improving Food Security and Nutrition in Liberia that was held at the Liberian National Museum said malnutrition accounts for a third of child deaths in Liberia.
She stressed that malnutrition also hampers the ability of a child to learn and earn and therefore makes a huge impact on the social and economic progress of a country, reducing the Gross Domestic Product by as much as 3%.
According to her, the good news is malnutrition can be preventable. With support from the European Union, the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare is already leading high impact interventions in collaboration with UNICEF and WFP.
Ms. Colin said the purpose of the photo exhibition is to promote awareness on the importance of nutrition to the growth and development of Liberia and its children. She explained that the photos showcase not only problems, but also actions that are already ongoing to address malnutrition across different sectors and the positive effect of nutrition among Liberian children.
She further said one of the highlights of the exhibition is a collaboration of photos on optimal infant and young child feeding and care practices that are being actively promoted by the Ministry of Health and Social Welfare, UNICEF, WFP and partners.
Ms. Colin added that the photos give a powerful message to the public that a significant portion of malnutrition can be addressed by simply tapping on available resources such as breast milk. She said these photos can attest that Liberia can substantially reduce malnutrition through continued commitment of the government, UN and the civil society.
Meanwhile, Ministry of Health and Social Welfare Assistant Minister Tolbert G. Nyensuah said 16,000 Liberian malnourished children are in grave danger and that they are at a higher risk of death. He said two out of five Liberian children are stunted, this means they are shorter than their peers.
He mentioned that children who are stunted; their physical growth are affected so is their cognitive development. According to him, many children do not perform well in school because they are not productive as their peers who are well nourished.
The Assistant Minister said Liberia is one of the 21 countries with the highest stunting rate worldwide, depriving thousands of children from attaining their full growth and development potential. He added that Liberia needs to take action now and make sure that we commit and work together in creating better future for our children.