Asian leaders and parliamentarians gathered at a conference in Hanoi on April 2 to recognise the vital role of parliamentarian leaders in advancing child nutrition and development.

The conference, dubbed “the Role of Parliamentarians in the Fulfilment of Child’s Rights to Nutrition and Development,” was jointly held by UNICEF, the Alive & Thrive organisation and the Vietnam ’s National Assembly following the success of the 132nd Assembly of the Inter-Parliamentary Union (IPU-132).

Addressing the event, National Assembly Vice Chairman Uong Chu Luu said strong and dedicated leadership across the South and East Asian region will help ensure investments in child nutrition and health are prioritised and nations have the human capital to remain competitive in today’s growing global economy.

Many Asian countries have committed to improving child nutrition, a fundamental human right, through the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC). Despite strong investments from these countries, progress on infant and child nutrition across the region has stalled.

A quarter century post-CRC adoption, at least half of children are still stunted across six countries in East and South Asia . Stunting, or below average height for one’s age, reduces physical, social, and cognitive capacity throughout childhood and into adulthood.

According to Member of the Afghanistan Parliament Fackhuda Zahra Naderi, countries across the South and East Asian regions continue to pay high economic costs for not addressing child stunting, including increased health and education costs.

These compounding factors can reduce a country’s GDP by up to 3 percent, she noted.

Participants at the event discussed ways policymakers and parliamentarians can support families to improve infant and young child feeding practices, particularly breastfeeding.

They said parliamentarians can support families by strengthening legislation around the International Code of Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes (BMS Code) and maternity protection. The BMS Code is designed to support optimal infant and young child nutrition by regulating how and where breast milk substitutes are marketed.

Strong maternity protection policies help ensure that mothers can be employed in the formal sector and have the support they need to exclusively breastfeed their child for the first 6 months of life and continue supplementary breastfeeding through 24 months of age, they said.

During the event, parliamentarians also suggested proposals and measures to ensure nutrition for children in each country, contributing to making effective legislative adjustments and implementing policies in each country across the Asia-Pacific region.-VNA