Addis Ababa- Ethiopia (PANA) -- Faced with a heavy disease burden caused by prevalent maternal and child undernourishment, Ethiopia Thursday launched its first-ever National Nutrition Strategy (NNS) to ensure its people live a healthy and productive life.
"The time is now for us to focus our attention and endeavours to reverse one of the most serious health concerns facing our nation," said Health Minister Tedros Adhanom, at the launch of the integrated multi-sectoral effort aimed at alleviating the persistent problem of malnutrition in the East African country.
"With this Strategy and other complementary strategies, we are once and for all ensuring that future generations can fulfill their potential and lead healthy and prosperous lives," he added.
Malnutrition, according to health authorities in the country, is the greatest underlying cause of childhood mortality in Ethiopia.
Approximately 53 per cent of all deaths among children under the age of five are related to malnutrition.
In human terms, this translates into roughly 374 child deaths every day.
The NNS launch in Ethiopia comes in the wake of new evidence from 'The Lancet' Series on Maternal and Child Undernutrition, showing that malnutrition accounts for more than 3.
5 million child deaths every year worldwide.
'The Lancet' is the world's leading independent general medical journal that brings international attention to the critical role of early nutrition in global health and economic growth of nations.
In economic terms, according to the latest series, Ethiopia will lose an estimated 144 billion Birr (about US$15 billion) due to the economic consequences of stunting, and iodine and iron deficiencies between 2006 and 2015, if the nutrition status remained unchanged.
If action is taken, Ethiopia stands to save 46 billion Birr.
"The Lancet Series analyses the effectiveness and potential impact of nutrition-related interventions and policy options.
This Series offers a unique roadmap for improving nutrition and the well-being of the world's poorest women and children," said Dr.
Robert Black of the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health and lead author of 'The Lancet' Series.
Speaking at the NNS launch here, Black said: "Worldwide, policymakers and donors must respond to these findings if they hope to put an end to the destructive cycle of undernutrition and poverty in developing countries.
" As a comprehensive approach to eradicating malnutrition in Ethiopia, the NNS encompasses the promotion of essential nutrition actions such as breastfeeding, monitoring and promotion of child growth, enhancing maternal care practices and nutrition in emergencies.
It also covers food security activities, water and sanitation, micronutrient supplementation and fortification, and addresses the role of nutrition in HIV/AIDS and diet-related non-communicable diseases such as diabetes and cardiovascular disease.
The Lancet has selected Ethiopia as one of its key countries for the launch of its landmark Series on Maternal and Child Undernutrition.
Other countries are India, Peru, Senegal, Vietnam and Bangladesh.