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Global Efforts To Address Malnutrition Should Factor In Immunization

“On Red Nose Day, we are reminded of the famine in Ethiopia that triggered the first Comic Relief, over 25 years ago,” and “as we reflect, we now know that the link between malnutrition and infectious disease makes for a particularly vicious circle,” Seth Berkley, CEO of the GAVI Alliance, writes in an opinion piece in the Guardian’s “Global Development Professionals Network.” “While there is now general agreement that tackling hunger and its causes is one of the most pressing development challenges, there is still little consensus on how best to achieve this,” he continues, adding, “What’s more, the role that immunization has to play in breaking the infectious disease-malnutrition cycle seems largely overlooked.”

Berkley highlights initiatives addressing malnutrition — including last year’s Olympic Hunger Summit, the U.N. World Food Programme’s (WFP) Purchase for Progress scheme, and the Scaling Up Nutrition program — and writes, “What none of these campaigns pick up on is the growing body of evidence suggesting the need to complement any fight against malnutrition with a fight against infectious disease.” He states, “One way to avoid this is to vaccinate against measles and rotavirus, which can collectively protect children from some of the most common causes of diarrhea,” adding, “In addition to preventing deaths, evidence is now emerging to show that vaccines can help prevent some of the chronic consequences of malnourishment.” He concludes, “As the U.K. prepares to host this summer’s G8 meeting at Lough Erne in Northern Ireland, malnutrition is already set to be high on the agenda. Let’s just hope that immunization is part of the equation” (3/15).