UN agencies announce support for improving child nutrition worldwide

UN agencies announce support for improving child nutrition worldwide

DILI, 17 november 2021 (TATOLI)-United Nations Agencies have announced their strong support for an international coalition that aims to rapidly improve the nutrition, health and education of school-age children worldwide following school closures due to the pandemic.

Through a press ballot on the official FAO portal, it was stated that this support is to ensure every child in need gets regular healthy meals at school by 2030.

“The United Nations assesses that an integrated school health and nutrition program can serve as a “stepping stone” for the transformation of the agri-food system,”The statement said.

In 2020, the COVID-19 pandemic caused major disruptions to schools and education worldwide and millions of children were unable to obtain their school meals or benefit from school-based health and nutrition services such as deworming, vaccination, and psychosocial support. Globally, more than 150 million children are still deprived of food and essential health and nutrition services.

In a joint declaration, five institutions committed to helping the School Food Coalition, a group of more than 60 countries led by France and Finland, whose vision is to give every child in need the opportunity to receive nutritious meals in schools by 2030.

The Coalition is also committed to a ‘smart’ school meal programme, which combines regular school meals with complementary health and nutrition interventions for children’s growth and learning.

“School health and nutrition programs are impactful interventions to support the growth and development of schoolchildren and adolescents”, the leaders of UN agencies said in their declaration.

“They can help fight child poverty, hunger and malnutrition in all its forms. They attract children to school and support children’s learning, as well as long-term health and well-being.” Schoolchildren are not the only ones who benefit.

Leaders of the five institutions noted that school meals can serve as a “stepping stone” for food system transformation. Where possible, they can use locally grown food, support national and local food markets and systems, increase opportunities for small farmers and local catering businesses, most of which are led by women.

These programs can contribute to the achievement of at least seven SDGs. Each of the five UN agencies — the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), UNICEF, the United Nations World Food Program (WFP) and the World Health Organization ( WHO) — will bring a specific set of skills to the coalition.

More than 50 partners, including NGOs, civil society, foundations and other organizations said they would also provide support.

“FAO is fully committed to supporting Members through the Global School Food Coalition. It comes at a critical time to safeguard children’s access to nutritious food and life skills, as well as to support local community development and the transformation of the agri-food system,” said FAO Director General, QU Dongyu.

The Coalition will work to restore school meals and other health and nutrition programs that existed before the COVID-19 pandemic, expand them to reach the 73 million children who were not covered before COVID, and improve their quality in part by setting standards and linking them to local food production where possible.

In their statement of support, leaders from five UN agencies committed to working with governments to achieve the coalition’s goals, providing technical and operational support where needed, and advocating for funding and helping to collect better data on the impact of health and nutrition programs in schools.




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