Development of a global strategy on infant and young child feeding. Report on a WHO/UNICEF consultation for the WHO European Region



Malnutrition is responsible, directly or indirectly, for half of the 10.5 million deaths each year among children under five years of age. Two thirds of these deaths occur during the first year of life, and are closely associated with poor breastfeeding and poor complementary feeding practices. Only a minority of infants worldwide are exclusively breastfed during the first months of life, and complementary feeding is often unsafe, inappropriate and inadequate. Malnourished children who survive suffer increased morbidity, impaired development and reduced school performance. Poor feeding practices and their consequences are no t only a violation of children’s rights but they also threaten social and economic development. In March 2000, a technical consultation on infant and young child feeding was undertaken by WHO in collaboration with UNICEF to discuss issues around feeding policies and practices. Based on the results of this consultation and on accumulated evidence of the importance of the first years for early child growth, a new global strategy was drafted. The aims of the strategy are to improve the feeding of infants and young children and to increase the commitment of governments, civil society and international organizations to protecting, promoting and supporting optimal infant and young child feeding. In May 2001, representatives of 16 Member States in the WHO European Region, as well as nutritional and health experts, gathered in Budapest to discuss this Global Strategy for Infant and Young Child Feeding. The participants contributed to the draft of this new strategy and discussed issues related to its implementation at the national and regional level.