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UN Launches New Initiative To Help Mozambique Reduce Chronic Malnutrition

The first 1,000 days of a child's life are considered the period of opportunity for addressing chronic malnutrition.

Copyright: WFP

UN REACH, a new United Nations initiative in Mozambique aimed at strengthening the Government’s capacity to scale up food and nutrition interventions, was launched this week. This is the latest step in a series of promising actions to tackle the country’s high levels of stunting.

According to a recent survey, chronic undernutrition in Mozambique stands at a 43 per cent, one of the highest in the region. Similarly, micronutrient deficiencies continue to affect an estimated two thirds of young children.

Established in 2008 by FAO, UNICEF, WFP, and WHO as an inter-agency initiative, REACH – Ending Child Hunger and Undernutrition - pioneers new ways for the UN to ‘deliver as one’ in the campaign to reduce stunting. Stunted growth refers to low height-for-age, when a child is short for his/her age but not necessarily thin. Also known as chronic malnutrition, this carries long-term developmental risks.

REACH acts as a catalyst, using evidence-based analysis and innovative programming, to help governments prioritize scarce resources.  The REACH approach and resource tools provide guidance for the implementation of nutrition programming that cuts across Government sectors at the national and sub-national levels.  Accompanying the REACH process is a robust monitoring and evaluation framework to measure outcomes in terms of nutrition governance and management.

“When UN agencies coordinate actions and combine resources in this way, we make our support for the Government more effective and accountable” said WFP Country Director, Lola Castro.  

One of REACH’s central roles will be to support the Government in the implementation of the Multisectoral Action Plan for the Reduction of Chronic Undernutrition (PAMRDC).  Approved by the Council of Ministers in September 2010, PAMRDC is a national framework of policies aiming to accelerate the reduction of chronic undernutrition in children under five.

REACH’s office will be based at the Food and Nutrition Security Technical Secretariat (SETSAN), the institution leading the coordination of PAMRDC implementation. From here REACH will be working with ministries and provincial governments, development partners, civil society and the private sector to ensure greater coordination and collaboration.  REACH is an integral part of the SUN (Scaling up Nutrition) movement.

SETSAN’s National Coordinator, Marcela Libombo, said the initiative would underpin the Government’s commitment to fight chronic undernutrition.

“As we move to the implementation phase of the PAMRDC, REACH will complement our support to ministries and provinces in the coordination and implementation of nutrition and food security interventions”, she said.  

Describing the next steps, Tania Goossens-Allen, REACH’s Country Facilitator, said that this year's priorities would include supporting sectors and provinces in their preparation of PAMRDC implementation plans, and strengthening coordination mechanisms among multiple stakeholders.  

“Reducing stunting in Mozambique will require actions on various fronts - food, health and care for children and their mothers", Goossens-Allen. "REACH will use its cross-cutting approach to build on existing country initiatives and experiences to strengthen capacity for improved nutrition governance and management.”