KATHMANDU, June 13: Nutrition specialists attending a South Asia regional knowledge forum organized by the World Bank (WB) in Kathmandu have urged political leaders of the region to start a fresh fight against malnourishment immediately.
"The crisis (of malnourishment) is here and the solution is in our hands," said Tina Sanghvi, senior country director of Alive and Thrive, Bangladesh. "We can not afford to wait any longer."
At a press conference, held at the end of the two-day seminar on Wednesday, Sanghvi, along with other panelists, highlighted knowledge gap as one of the main reason of high rates of malnourishment in South Asian countries. "Exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of a baby´s life is a key to combating malnourishment," said Sanghvi. "Even those mothers who are themselves malnourished can also properly breastfeed their children. But, many women lack this knowledge. This is a problem."
Luc Laviolette, Senior Nutrition Specialist at the WB, who oversees three South Asian countries including Nepal, underlined the cost-effectiveness of interventions in the fight against malnourishment. "Several researches have shown that each dollar invested in combating malnourishment returns 16 dollars in the long run," Laviolette said. "Therefore, it is wise to invest in fighting malnourishment."
Melanie Galvin, Regional Director of Micronutrient Initiative, said that entrepreneurship can not be bolstered without healthy workforce. "If you have a population deficient of vitamin A and iodine, you can not expect entrepreneurship," she said. "Breastfeeding is obviously important. But, we need to focus on iodine and vitamin supplements."
Julia Mclanghlin, sector manager of health, nutrition and population in the South Asian region of the WB, said, "Each one of us has a role," she said.
In South Asia, health experts say, the problem of malnourishment is invisible. "You can not see skinny and starving babies, like in famine-hit countries," Mclanghlin said. "Yet, the problem is very severe here as the whole region is suffering from chronic malnourishment."