The World Bank and UNICEF Call for Increased Investment in Nutrition

April 2, 2012

Undernutrition annually claims the lives of more than 7,500 children under five in Tajikistan

DUSHANBE, April 2, 2012 – Today the World Bank and the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) jointly presented the results of a ‘Situation Analysis on Improving Economic Outcomes by Expanding Nutrition Programming in Tajikistan’.

This joint report provides an estimate of the health consequences of undernutrition in terms of mortality and disability-adjusted life years for Tajikistan. It also calculates the potential human and economic benefits to be gained from increasing nutrition investments in Tajikistan.

Although child mortality in Tajikistan has declined in the last decade, it still remains high. 35 percent of the 7,676 deaths of Tajik children under the age of five that occurred in 2011 were due to undernutrition.

The report shows that scaling up of key nutrition interventions would result in at least US$ 10 million in future economic gains in productivity and workforce size for Tajikistan. 

“Undernutrition remains an important public health and development challenge in Tajikistan”, said Laylee Moshiri, UNCEF Representative in Tajikistan. “Almost every third child in Tajikistan is estimated to be too short for its age (stunting), with more than half of undernutrition related deaths of children under 5 attributable to chronic malnutrition ”, she added.

“The human tragedy of undernutrition is not unique to Tajikistan,” said Marsha Olive, Country Manager of the World Bank in Tajikistan. “This hidden disease is prevalent in many countries, yet easily preventable through proven, cost-effective interventions. By taking timely action to meet the nutrition needs of pregnant women and young children, such as the World Bank is doing with the help of the Government of Japan by providing micronutrient supplements, nutrition education and promoting breastfeeding in 10 districts in Khatlon, it is possible to save lives and reduce economic, health and development losses,” she continued.

Undernutrition causes delays in the physical and cognitive development of girls and boys, sometimes beyond remedy. Iodine deficiency is one of the chief causes of such cognitive and developmental delays.

The report provides compelling evidence of the potential health and economic gains of investments in nutrition for policy and decision makers in Tajikistan. It highlights nutrition interventions that have already been tested and have proven their impact, such as exclusive breastfeeding until six months and timely and appropriate complementary feeding; universal salt iodisation; multiple micro-nutrient supplementation; deworming; and flour fortification. The report stresses that improved nutrition requires an intersectoral approach, bringing together the health, education, social protection, agriculture and food, water and sanitation sectors.

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