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Speech of UNICEF Deputy Representative, a.i Rajen Kumar Sharma at the launch of the General Nutrition Survey and 2011-2020 National Nutrition Strategy

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Date: Wednesday 4 April 2012
Event: Launch of the General Nutrition Survey and 2011-2020 National Nutrition Strategy
Venue: Hilton Hotel, Hanoi

  • rajen speech nut straExcellency, Mr. Nguyen Viet Tien, Vice-Minister of Health,
  • Representatives from line-Ministries,
  • Government officials,
  • Representatives from the international community,
  • UN colleagues,
  • Representatives from the media,
  • Ladies and gentlemen,

It is an honour and a pleasure for me, representing the UN in Viet Nam, to be here at the launch of the General Nutrition Survey and the National Nutrition Strategy for 2011-2020.

First of all I would like to congratulate the National Institute of Nutrition, the Departments of Health and the almost 100,000 children and other family members from all provinces in Viet Nam that were involved in the General Nutrition Survey.

The findings in the comprehensive report to be presented today provide vital data and complement the information generated through the Nutrition Surveillance System in the areas of food consumption, infant and young child feeding practices and food safety. Data has been collected and analysed by the provinces themselves with support from the National Institute of Nutrition and UNICEF through the UN Joint Programme on Integrated Nutrition and Food Security Strategies funded by the MDG Achievement Fund.

Data from this general survey is representative down to the province level for many of the nutrition indicators, and the results have been used to review the impact of the previous 2001-2010 National Nutrition Strategy. The availability of disaggregated data by age, sex, ethnicity, geographical area and socio-economic status has further guided the development of the new 2011-2020 National Nutrition Strategy that we are launching today.  

I would therefore like to congratulate the Ministry of Health with the approval of the 2011-2020 National Nutrition Strategy, one of the main objectives of which is to reduce child stunting – or the number of children that are too short for their age. There has been a notable reduction of stunting over the last years, however the prevalence is still very high and the General Nutrition Survey has revealed emergent socio-economic disparities as well as among provinces and ethnic groups.
Stunting has received far too little attention for far too long. Many people still do not know what stunting is. Stunting is the irreversible outcome of chronic nutritional deficiency during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life from conception to two years of age. Current scientific evidence shows that stunting is the most valid indicator to reflect potential growth and development of a child in the future, and reflects the potential for social and economic development of a country.

The damage stunting causes to a child’s development is permanent. That child will never learn, nor earn, as much as he or she could have if properly nourished in early life. With regard to the current government goal of improving the height of young Vietnamese people, the reduction of stunting during the “window of opportunity” from conception to 2 years of age is the most effective entry point in reaching this goal. The National Nutrition Strategy focusing on stunting reduction should therefore be an investment plan – and we are gathered here today to call for your investments.

The Strategy has also clearly defined roles and responsibilities – and it recognises the need to go beyond the commitment of the Ministry of Health to address under-nutrition. The strategy is therefore calling for the involvement of the Ministry of Planning and Investment; the Ministry of Finance, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development; the Ministry of Education and Training; the Ministry of Labour, Invalids and Social Affairs; the Ministry of Information and Communication; and Provincial Peoples Committees, among others. It calls for integration and joint efforts for stunting reduction with a focus on bridging the gap in socioeconomic, geographical and ethnic disparities.

Sectoral and provincial stunting reduction action plans will further be finalised and enforced with focus on reaching the unreached and guided by disaggregated data from the General Nutrition Survey and the Surveillance System.

This also includes implementation to scale of an essential package of proven, feasible interventions applicable to Viet Nam to reduce stunting. The package is to provide interventions for the population groups most vulnerable to malnutrition. High coverage of these effective, yet low-cost, feasible interventions needs to be achieved in the short term.

The package should be implemented through integration within existing health services and available contacts with the population to the extent possible. This will build upon Viet Nam’s strong health system that is able to deliver quality interventions with high coverage. Some interventions will require outreach services and home visits and should again utilise the existing systems of village health workers, the Women’s Union and nutrition collaborators.

Technical guidance, supervision and quality assurance should be provided by the Ministry of Health and the National Institute of Nutrition while provincial authorities will be responsible for ensuring implementation in ways that achieve high coverage at the local level. The Ministry of Health and the National Institute of Nutrition will also be instrumental in supporting the monitoring of process indicators and the evaluation of outcomes.

The UN places great importance on stunting reduction in Viet Nam, and this is the call to all stakeholders to ensure every child in Viet Nam has a chance of reaching his or her, full physical and mental potential. This is indeed investing in the future.

As a final remark, let me wish you all good health – and success to us all in our collaborative work on the enforcement of this strategy.

Thank you for your attention.

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