Our Priorities

China has made dramatic gains in reducing child malnutrition in recent decades. Nonetheless a number of challenges to optimal young child feeding and nutrition remain.



Breast milk is the perfect food for young children, and yet breastfeeding is on the decline in China. In addition to breast milk, most infants receive formula, or are given solid food, before the recommended age of six months. The infant formula industry aggressively and unethically markets its products to make them seem equivalent to human breast milk, and it encourages mothers to give formula to infants who should be exclusively breastfed.

In addition, children need adequate amounts of vitamin A, iron, and other nutrients for optimal physical and mental development, but childhood vitamin and mineral deficiencies are still common in parts of China.

These micronutrient deficiencies begin from birth. China does not routinely provide pregnant women with recommended vitamin and mineral supplements, despite high levels of iron, folate and iodine deficiency among expectant mothers. As a result, as many as 20% of children suffer from anemia, and some are at risk of stunting and mental impairment.

Compounding the problem is the lack of availability, and relative novelty, of fortified foods. Widespread consumption of fortified complementary food for infants and fortified flour by the general population is only beginning in China.

Poor childhood nutrition contributes to increasing rates of non-communicable diseases, like obesity and hypertension, which are now being diagnosed in children. As children with these conditions mature, they are at risk of cardiovascular diseases and type 2 diabetes.

Improving children's nutrition

UNICEF partners with the Ministry of Health and the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention to help eliminate disparities in childhood nutrition across China.

We are pioneering China's first field pilots of micronutrient supplements that parents can use at home to fortify their children's food. We additionally support the Chinese government's leadership on introducing fortified flour into the local market.

We help promote the unparalleled benefits of exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of life. We also work with ChinaConsumer Association to raise awareness about the importance of exclusive breastfeeding and to promote self-regulation, including monitoring public claims about infant formula to ensure that they comply with China's Code of Marketing, and discouraging the marketing of formula for infants younger than 12 months.

We fund community-based outreach activities to raise awareness about the benefits of using iodized salt, especially in remote areas where cheap unfortified salt is readily available. To measure improvement in rates of iodized salt use, we support a national system of monitoring and evaluation of iodine consumption.

We also help develop policies, guidelines and standards, like the 2011–2020 Food and Nutrition Development Plan.

We are initiating projects to reduce rates of obesity among urban youth through improved nutrition.

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