UNICEF Report: Critical Importance of First 1,000 Days of Life
Friday, April 19, 2013

World attention is increasingly focused on the most critical period experienced by everyone on earth-the first 1,000 days of life from conception to the second birthday.


A new report just released from the United Nations Children's Fund (UNICEF) "Improving Child Nutrition: The achievable imperative for global progress" focuses attention on this remarkable 'window of opportunity' during which adequate nutrition, vitamins and minerals can prevent irreversible physical and cognitive developmental damage.


The report details how the failure to ensure that the mother and the child in the womb receive adequate nutrition can result in stunting-a condition of hindered growth and development that is measured in terms of height in relation to age. Stunting affects over 165 million children- nearly one in four children under age 5-with developmental delays in body and brain with long-lasting negative consequences throughout a person's life. Stunting perpetuates a cycle of poor nutrition, poor cognitive abilities, illness, and poverty.


If you have never heard of this preventable global health issue before, you are not alone. This global tragedy receives little attention yet the deleterious consequences for not taking action are huge. The prosperity of a country and its future development can be vastly improved when the nutrition of children in the womb and up to age two is prioritized. Stunted growth is associated with reduced school attendance and poor academic performance and stunted children are more vulnerable to infectious disease having an increased risk of dying from pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria.


Stunted children become adults who are more overweight and suffer from chronic disease including diabetes, hypertension and cardiovascular disease and often have lower incomes. Women affected by stunting deliver babies who are likely to be afflicted by this preventable condition, perpetuating the cycle of malnutrition and poverty.


Failure to provide adequate food to the child in the womb and his or her mother violates international treaties including the Convention on the Rights of the Child which recognizes the right of the child to adequate food and that state parties must combat malnutrition. Regrettably, some states and UN Committees are too busy arguing for a so-called "right" to destroy the child in the womb-abortion-to bother about ensuring that these vulnerable children receive the proper nutrition they need to thrive. 


The world knows, or should know, what a pregnant woman and her developing son or daughter need: nutritious food and vital nutrients like iron, Vitamin A and folic acid during pregnancy. The 'superfood'-breastmilk-is critically needed by newborn babies and in their next six months. Mothers need nutritious food for their own health and to provide for their babies. The right solid food needs to be introduced at the right time. The ever present need for health care, good hygiene, sanitation and safe water continues to be critical in the lives of mothers and children.


I wonder when a conference at the United Nations, or anywhere, will focus attention on how to meet the critical nutritional needs of preborn children and their mothers and have the level of intensity as seen at the recent Commission on the Status of Women in efforts to pressure countries with pro-life laws to recognize undefined "reproductive rights" which for many countries and NGOs includes access to abortion.


The UNICEF report reminds the world of the great importance of the happenings inside the womb and the need to provide for these most vulnerable children. Anthony Lake, Executive Director of UNICEF introduces the report and includes the following:


"It is difficult to think of a greater injustice than robbing a child, in the womb and in infancy, of the ability to fully develop his or her talents throughout life.  This is a tragedy for the 165 million children under the age of 5 afflicted by stunting in the world today. It is a violation of their rights. It is also a huge burden for nations whose future citizens will be neither as healthy nor as productive as they could have been."


The words of Mr. Lake validate that fact that injustices against the child in the womb can and do take place. Preventable malnutrition is one.


There is an even greater injustice: robbing a child in the womb of her very right to life without which she cannot even be, let alone develop any talents at all.


Robbing nations of future citizens is another.