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Aung San Suu Kyi launches campaign to tackle malnutrition in Myanmar

  |   SUN Country Network

Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, right, at a gathering at Sanpyagyi village, Pakokku, where she spoke of the importance of a nationwide nutrition programme. Photo: Kyaw Zeya (MNA). Source: Global New Light of Myanmar

On 25 January 2017, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi chaired the first ever National Coordination Meeting on Nutrition in Pakokku, Magway Region of Myanmar. The meeting brought together five government ministers (Health and Sports, Social Welfare, Education, Religious Affairs, and Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation), six donor countries, six UN agencies, the World Bank and Non-Government Organisations to discuss how nutrition issues could be tackled with a more coordinated, national approach across sectors.

Nutrition is the lifeblood of children. According to research, under-twos will see more brain development when they have had better nutrition. Nutrition helps make stronger children and boosts development. Ministries, regional governments and philanthropic organisations help child nutrition programmes. But participation is a must for both parents. The government has the responsibility to help parents in developing their offspring. Today I told the health minister to educate people on how to find affordable protein.”

Aung San Suu Kyi, State Councellor, Myanmar.

Myanmar has one of the highest rates of stunting in children under 5 years old in ASEAN and micronutrient deficiency is widespread. Preliminary results from Myanmar’s 2015 Demographic Health Survey show that 29% of the country’s children under 5 years old are stunted. Micronutrient deficiencies are widespread in Myanmar and iron deficiencies in both children aged 6-59 months (57%) and women aged 15-49 years (47%) is considered severely high.

Key outcomes of the Cross-Ministry Coordination Meeting on National Nutrition Strategy are:

  • High-level government commitment on the importance of nutrition and its inclusion in national development planning
  • Recognition of the importance of good nutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, and beyond
  • The Ministry of Health will convene regular meetings of the cross-sectoral group and include State and Regional representation to continue to discuss coordination on nutrition
  • Continue to build a solid base of evidence on nutrition
  • Strive to procure goods that support nutrition initiatives locally

Prior to the meeting, the Union Ministers joined the State Counsellor on a field visit to Kyee Village, 15-minutes drive from Pakokku. The trip allowed the leaders to experience up-close, the impact of the First 1000 Days Nutrition Programme. The programme is funded by the Livelihoods and Food Security Trust Fund (LIFT), a multi-donor partnership of the UK Department for International Development (DfID) European Union, Australia, Denmark, France, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Switzerland, Sweden, and the United States of America. From the private sector, the Mitsubishi Corporation is a donor. LIFT is run by Save the Children, Myanmar Nurses and Midwives Association (MNMA), PACT Global Microfinance Fund (PGMF) and PATH. The programme has so far resulted in 44% of surveyed mothers able to afford more food – and 69% more variety of food.

We need to promote and protect 1000-days practices such as breastfeeding and complementary feeding. At the same time, we must make sure that women of reproductive age have access to quality health care and access to enhanced social protection mechanisms.”

Michael McGrath, Save the Children, Country Director for Myanmar.

Save the Children’s Country Director for Myanmar, Mr. Michael McGrath, says that Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s visit demonstrates her commitment to finding and enacting solutions to improve nation-wide nutrition statistics which are currently limiting the country’s development. Gavin McGillivray, on behalf of the DFID in Myanmar, which chairs LIFT and 3MDG Fund Boards, said he and other development partners welcomed Daw Aung San Suu Kyi’s lead on organising the first National Coordination Meeting on Nutrition.

There are forums existing like the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement, the UN Network for Nutrition and Food Security and the Development Partner Nutrition Network and there is a real appetite among development partners to align behind a Government vision to improve nutrition for all of the people in Myanmar.”

Gavin McGillivray, UK Department for International Development (DFID) in Myanmar.

Mr McGillivray said the Ministries of Health and Sports, Social Welfare, Education and Agriculture, Livestock and Irrigation all had ongoing interventions on nutrition that were making a difference, including the Department of Social Welfare’s plan to introduce universal MCCT in Chin State.

Photo credit: LIFT Fund

Photo credit: LIFT Fund

Read more about the event: Save the Children,  LIFT-Fund, Eleven Myanmar, The Guardian

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  • Asfia Azim, Nutritionist, Bangladesh | Feb 6, 2017 at

    What a great initiative!!! I hope and wish other Asian countries with higher number of malnutrition will take this sort of initiative and commit to address and tackle malnutrition.