UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore's remarks at the launch of Nutrition Reports

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NEW YORK, 23 November 2020 – "Good morning — or good evening — everyone. On behalf of UNICEF, it’s a pleasure to join you all for this important event.

"Nutrition has long been at the core of UNICEF’s work. That’s because nutrition is at the core of every child’s health and wellbeing.

"Last year, our flagship publication — our State of the World’s Children report — cast a spotlight on children, food and nutrition.

"The report highlighted that at least 1 in 3 children under 5 are undernourished or overweight. And that 2 in 3 children are not fed the minimum diet they need to grow, develop and learn to their full potential.

"We are concerned that the COVID-19 pandemic may have exacerbated the situation.

"Around the world, tens of millions of families are being hit by the economic fallout.

"We estimate that an additional 140 million children will fall into poverty — further threatening their access to nutritious and safe diets, and disrupting essential nutrition services.

"Today, I’d like to emphasize the experience of young mothers and young people as they interact with the food system.

"What choices do they have? What choices do they make – and if the availability of healthy foods is limited – what choices can they make?

"What are the time and money pressures they face in feeding children well? And how do they respond to the relentless pressure of the marketing of unhealthy foods?

"To help families feed children better, and to help young people make better food choices, we need to better understand how they perceive and respond to these questions.

"And today, the launch of these two follow-up reports to State of World’s Children report represents an important milestone.

"These reports help us to identify and “unpack” the perceptions of young mothers and young people on a number of key issues: food and nutrition, barriers to healthy eating, probable solutions for a responsive food system, and much more.

"These two reports also reveal the findings from workshops in 18 different countries — from Australia to Zimbabwe –— where more than 1,200 young mothers and young people sat down to discuss the real day-to-day challenges they face in feeding their children and in eating well.

"As Vice-Chancellor Glover and I note in our forewords, mothers told us in their own words about everything from the challenge of eating well during pregnancy, to the bond developed with a baby during breastfeeding, and the anxiety of coping with “fussy” eaters.

"Young people told us about wanting to eat healthy but not being able to do so — because they lacked time or money to do so. Or, in far too many cases, healthy food just wasn’t being sold in their schools or in local shops and markets.

"And, as we learned, for some the challenge was eating at all. As one workshop facilitator noted of young people participating in her event, “Some did not eat dinner last night or just drank milk.”

"That quote should make us all stop and think.

"Throughout my time as Executive Director, I have sought also to make UNICEF a leader in providing young people with a place to make their voices heard and to play a real role in bringing about change in their communities and societies.

"These workshops provide a vital first step in making that happen.

"Young people showed us they want to eat healthy. They also showed us that they believe change is possible. And they have plenty of ideas on how to bring about that change.

"So, my question to all of you is, how do we make that happen collectively? How can we support young people and families to be agents of change in ensuring that every child, and every young person, has access to nutritious, safe, affordable and sustainable diets?

"Since the reports provide community’s perspectives, I hope they will be a useful tool for practitioners and policy makers in developing policies and programmes.

"We urge governments and partners alike to ensure that every child, young person, and women has the nutritious, safe, affordable and sustainable diets they need at every moment of life to meet their full potential.

"On a final note, I want to congratulate my colleagues in UNICEF Headquarters, Country Offices, and National Committees in 18 countries all over the world for making this project happen.

"I want to applaud the wonderful work of Amanda’s team at Western Sydney University, which led the design and analysis of the focus groups.

"I want to thank Peggy and Rafael for their invaluable wisdom and advice throughout this project.

"And I want to acknowledge the support of the governments of the Netherlands and Norway for partnering with us.

"Most importantly, I would like to express my gratitude towards the young mothers’ and young people who agreed to talk to us and sharing their candid insights and suggestions. Without all of you, this endeavor would not have been possible.

"On behalf of everyone at UNICEF, thank you all."

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