Half a billion children worldwide at risk from malnutrition: Report

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According to the report published by charity Save the Children, half a billion children could grow up physically and mentally stunted in the next 15 years due to malnourishment in the world’s poorest countries.

Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children said: Malnutrition is a largely hidden crises, but it afflicts one in four children around the world. It wreaks lifelong damage and is a major killer of children. Every hour of every day, 300 children die because of malnutrition.

This new report, titled A Life Free From Hunger: Tackling Child Malnutrition comes at a time when the world is reeling from deep economic recession and governments are cutting down food subsidies for the poor. The report reveals chronic malnutrition, or a lack of proper nutrition over time, is deadlier and far more widespread than short-term acute malnutrition frequently seen during food crises. It also noted that many families in developing countries could not afford milk and vegetable due to rising inflation.

The survey covered poor families in India, Bangladesh, Peru, Pakistan and Nigeria.

The report went on to disclose that chronic malnutrition weakens young children’s immune systems, leaving them more likely to die of childhood diseases like diarrhoea, pneumonia and malaria. It causes two million child deaths a year, three times more than mortalities from acute malnutrition, Save the Children research added.

Chronic malnutrition also leaves children far more vulnerable to extreme suffering and death from acute malnutrition when emergency food crises hit, the report maintained while citing situation in the Horn of Africa and the Sahel, two Sub-Saharan regions that are marred by droughts since the last couple of months.

In total, malnutrition underlies 2.6 million child deaths every year, or one third of all child deaths.

“It’s time for a paradigm shift. The world can no longer afford to wait until visibly emaciated children grab headlines to inspire the action these children need and deserve. Unfortunately for millions of the world’s chronically malnourished children, permanent damage to their physical and intellectual development is not as obvious, and so it’s too often overlooked,” said Miles.

SKY-ROCKETING FOOD PRICES

The charity insisted that rising food prices around the world is worsening child malnutrition and hitting the poorest segment of the society very hard resulting in child deaths.

“The world has made dramatic progress in reducing child deaths, down from 12 to 7.6 million, but this momentum will stall if we fail to tackle malnutrition,” said Save the Children chief executive Justin Forsyth.

I skip meals so I can feed my surviving children. I borrow, I even lie to somehow get money to feed them. Poverty breaks you down but you should be hopeful and strong,” said a poor mother in Delhi who lost two children due to malnutrition.

Last year, United Nations and Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) predicted that food prices will soar by as much as 30% over the next 10 years. This will be having a devastating affect over the world, with developing and poor nations suffering terribly from its consequences.

The agency wants the UK to lead the way in reducing hunger and protecting children from food price rises – starting with a Hunger Summit when world leaders are in London for the Olympics.

According to UN Food and Agriculture Organisation, food prices have risen sharply since the second half of last year due to severe weather damaged food supplies in 2010.

The FAO price index also rose last month since July, but was still 7% lower than in January 2011.

According to Global Food and Farming Futures report, the current system is unsustainable and will fail to end the hunger issue, unless it is radically altered.

We know in the next 20 years the world population will increase to something like 8.3 billion people. We know that urbanisation is going to be the driver and that something of the order of 65-70% of the world population will be living in cities at that time, the report underlined.

However, according to Miles, investment in agriculture is clearly important to making sure production keeps up with the growing population. “But let’s not forget, right now the world is producing enough food to feed everybody, and yet one third of children in developing countries are malnourished. Clearly, just growing food is not an answer, the US has shown great leadership on nutrition, but now must call on other powerful nation to make it a global priority, he added.

POVERTY ERADICATION

With the picture of hunger getting bleak, governments of different countries are trying hard to bring down hunger issue. UNICEF, a UN charity that works in 158 countries has called development agencies, donors and communities to step up their efforts in eradicating hunger from the respective countries.

The organisation has also talked to communities to provide solution to child caretakers on how to provide sound nutrition for malnourished children. They are also looking into ways to better basic amenities in every developing country.

Middle East and other Asian countries are trying hard to eradicate the hunger situation. In 2010, Global Hunger Index (GHI) Kuwait on top position in eradicating hunger in the country, followed by Turkey, Saudi Arabia, Tunisia and Iran.

Almost all countries in the Middle East were tagged under low hunger countries with better plans for future.

Sources: BBC News, JPPost, Foreign Policy, medicalnewstoday.com

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