Dec 07, Colombo: At an event attended by government and development partners in Moneragala on Friday (December 06), Sri Lanka's Speaker of Parliament Chamal Rajapaksa launched the country's first-ever Multi-sectoral Action Plan on Nutrition.
The three-year Action Plan aims to reduce maternal and child malnutrition in the country.
The plan sets targets and milestones to reduce the prevalence of under-nutrition, anemia and stunting amongst key population groups, as well as to improve food security and provide access to safe water, sanitation and hygiene to households-at-risk.
The plan will be implemented through 17 ministries in close collaboration with civil society, nongovernmental organizations with the support from the UN family.
"We congratulate the Government for putting the issue of nutrition at the top of the national agenda," said Ms. Una McCauley, UNICEF Representative to Sri Lanka, representing the UN System at the launch in Moneragala.
"We remain committed to working with all sectors to ensure that the targets set in the plan become a tangible reality for children and their families in the near future," she added.
According to the UNICEF, while Sri Lanka has made tremendous progress in improving several maternal and child indicators, under-nutrition still poses a major challenge. Nearly one quarter of all children under five are underweight, while one in seven children is stunted - shorter than s/he should be for his or her height. Disparities exist between districts and regions, with children in the central and eastern provinces more at risk.
"We need to place emphasis on the nutritional value of diets and encourage better consumption practices, remarked FAO's Representative to Sri Lanka, Ms. Beth Crawford, "as better nutrition can help alleviate poverty and reduce social inequities."
The Multi-sector Action Plan for Nutrition was developed over the course of several months and involved extensive consultations between ministries, UN and other development partners, the private sector, civil society and non-governmental organizations.
"Nutrition is a multi-dimensional subject that deserves the mutual cooperation for all stakeholders and we thank the Government of Sri Lanka for recognizing the need for such an approach in tackling malnutrition," said the WFP Representative, Mr. Ismail Omer.
Sri Lanka is on track to achieve almost all of the MDGs, but has had challenges with nutrition indicators that have not changed much in the last five years. The UN hopes that the launch of the Action Plan will spur needed and urgent action to address this issue in the coming months.