Capital Ethiopia Newspaper

Nutrition focus of global maternal health rankings

Norway is the best place to be a mother and Niger is the worst, at least as far as a study from Save the Children is concerned. The rankings compare 165 countries around the world, looking at factors such as mother’s health, education and economic status as well as the critical child indicators of health and nutrition.

Niger replaces Afghanistan in maternal misery for the first time in two years. According to the report, Ethiopia performs better than many countries on a numbers of indicators. Female life expectancy has been rising for the last four years and access to safe drinking water has risen from 38 percent to 44. Gross enrolment in primary schools is 102 percent which is much higher than the average, although only nine girls are enrolled for every ten boys so improvement is still needed to get girls into schools and keep them there.

The report mainly focuses on mother and child nutrition ahead of a crucial G8 meeting where food will be high on the agenda.  Malnutrition is the underlying cause of at least a fifth of maternal mortality and more than a third of child death.

In fact the report cites it as the underlying cause of over 2.6 million children’s deaths each year and 171 million kids, 27 percent of all children globally are stunted; meaning their bodies and minds have suffered permanent, irreversible damage due to malnutrition. Key findings of the report indicates that children in an alarming number of countries are not getting adequate nutrition during their first 1,000 days, which is the most important developmental stage in a child’s life. Another finding suggests that breastfeeding, if done for the correct amount of time could prevent one million child fatalities per year.

“Ten million children are malnourished and eight million mothers are very thin meaning that they will give birth to underweight babies. The Ministry of Health has a number of projects to tackle these problems. One way is giving girls education so they don’t get married at an early age. An educated woman is likely to have a healthy child,” stated Ferew Lemma, Senior Nutrition and Public Health Advisor at Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH).

The report focuses on six interventions that can significantly decrease malnutrition and prevent stunting. The lifesaving pack includes Iron supplements, six months of exclusive breastfeeding, and complimentary feeding immediately after that time, Vitamin A, Zinc and good hygiene.

“The interventions we are talking about are very low cost. However, most are still not able to get them,” stated Duncan Harvey, deputy country director of Save the Children.

In Ethiopia there are many children going to school without any food. The Nutrition and Public health department of Federal Ministry of Health (FMOH) is currently working on a school feeding project. It is now working with 1,000 schools and hopes to get more schools involved in the future.

The report was launched on Friday May 11th 2012 at a press conference held at Siyonat Hotel.