The Second National Nutrition Forum under the theme “The first golden 1000 days – the foundation for national development”, brought government and development partners together on July 11-12 to discuss their commitment to eradicate malnutrition among children in Tajikistan through a multi-sectoral approach involving health, agriculture, food security and safety, education, economic development, and water and sanitation.

Saida Umarzoda, First Deputy Minister of Health and Social Protection of the Population in the Republic of Tajikistan, chaired the Forum and recalled progress that Tajikistan has made in improving the health of its population. She also called upon all stakeholders to combine efforts to further address nutrition challenges in order to see no child suffering from undernutrition.

Chronic malnutrition or stunting still affects 21 percent of children aged 6-59 months, while many more children and women suffer from micronutrient deficiencies such as anaemia and iodine deficiency, according to the national nutrition survey 2016 released during the forum.

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The launching of the Scaling Up Nutrition Common Results Framework for Tajikistan was one of the highlights of the two-day forum and highlighted the roles that each partner can play in realizing a vision of the country where no children suffers from malnutrition.

The United States Chargé d'Affaires Katherine Crawford praised the Government of Tajikistan and in particular the Ministry of Health and Social Protection of Population for the efforts to develop the Scaling Up Nutrition Common Results Framework and stressed the importance of its implementation.

The participants concluded the Forum with a resolution urging for executive decisions and actions required for addressing the major challenges of nutrition. They include: enactment of a law on mandatory flour fortification, enforcement of the Universal Salt Iodization Law, and initiating a holistic and innovative multi-sectoral program focused on the first 1,000 days (from conception to a child’s second birthday) to prevent malnutrition in Tajikistan. The right nutrition during this 1,000 day window has a profound impact on a child’s ability to grow, learn and thrive and a lasting effect on Tajikistan’s health and prosperity.

Afshan Khan, UNICEF Regional Director, noted that “When children miss out on the once-in-a-lifetime opportunity due to poor maternal and young child nutrition during the first 1,000 days of life, it perpetuates the inter-generational cycle of disadvantage and inequality. These failures come at a great cost to all of us. A cost measured in diminished capacity to learn, lower wages, higher unemployment, increased reliance on public assistance, and inter-generational cycles of poverty that weigh down economic and social progress for everyone. A world in which we honour our promises is one in which millions more children will live to fulfil their own promise – to the benefit of us all.”

Around 150 local and international partners and practitioners from throughout the government of Tajikistan, research institutions, development agencies, NGOs, civil society, and media attended the forum to review progress achieved, present and validate new evidence, and discuss policy and program implications to address challenges that malnutrition creates for children and their families in Tajikistan.