Accumulated scientific evidence shows that proper nutrition and stimulation in utero and during early childhood benefit physical and mental well-being later in life and contribute to the development of children’s cognitive and socioemotional skills. Yet, a critical but often overlooked fact in policy design and program development across the world is the association between maternal depression and childhood stunting -- the impaired growth and development measured by low height-for-age.
A few years ago, authors Peter Menzel and Faith D’Aluisio published “Hungry Planet,” a fascinating book with pictures of what families eat around the world. The picture from Mexico was revealing. If you take a brief look, it seems a quite healthy diet, varied and containing lots of fruits and vegetables. But if you look more closely, you will notice a dozen 2-liter bottles of soft drinks and about two dozen beer bottles at the back of the picture. In addition, in front of two children, there’s a table with sweet breads and other high-calorie snacks.
Two days before the world observes International School Meals Day, I’m here sitting in the U.K. Houses of Parliament thinking about the unexpected evolution of school meals programs in recent years.
New estimates released today by the World Health Organization (WHO), the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF), the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), and the World Bank show that the number of women dying due to complications in pregnancy and childbirth has almost halved in 20 years—from more than 540,000 in 1990 to less than 290,000 in 2010.
This is good news, but it doesn’t tell the whole story. While substantial progress has been achieved at the global level, many countries, particularly in sub-Saharan Africa, will still fail to reach the Millennium Development Goal (MDG 5) target of reducing maternal mortality by 75% from 1990 to 2015.