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November 11, 09

NEWS / Food shortages incapacitate and kill millions of children each year , UN report


11 November 2009 – An astonishing 200 million children under the age of five, almost all in Africa and Asia, suffer from the debilitating impact of stunted growth resulting from a lack of food and the right nutrients, a new United Nations report warned today.
The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) report, Tracking Progress on Child and Maternal Nutrition, also stressed that undernutrition contributes to a third of deaths of all children under five each year, which in 2006 stood at almost 10 million globally.

“Undernutrition steals a child’s strength and makes illnesses that the body might otherwise fight off far more dangerous,” said UNICEF Executive Director Ann M. Veneman.

“More than one-third of children who die from pneumonia, diarrhoea and other illnesses could have survived had they not been undernourished,” she added.

The report underscored the critical importance for a child’s development of the 1,000 days from conception until the second birthday, when nutritional deficiencies can reduce the ability to fight and survive disease, and damage social and mental aptitude.

“Those who survive undernutrition often suffer poorer physical health throughout their lives, and damaged cognitive abilities that limit their capacity to learn and to earn a decent income,” said Ms. Veneman. “They become trapped in an intergenerational cycle of ill-health and poverty.”

The UNICEF report noted that a stunted child is likely to experience a lifetime of poor health and underachievement, pointing to prevention as the only effective strategy to tackle the problem.

It highlighted the benefits of exclusive breastfeeding for the child’s initial six months which significantly improves the chances of survival and reduces the likelihood of stunting, as well as potentially slashing child mortality rates by 19 per cent in developing countries.

While 90 per cent of children who are stunted live in Asia and Africa, the report noted that progress has been made on both continents. In Asia the prevalence of stunting dropped from about 44 per cent in 1990 to an estimated 30 per cent in 2008, while in Africa it fell from around 38 per cent to 34 per cent over the same period.

“Global commitments on food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture are part of a wider agenda that will help address the critical issues raised in this report,” said Ms. Veneman. “Unless attention is paid to addressing the causes of child and maternal undernutrition today, the costs will be considerably higher tomorrow.”

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=32921&Cr=unicef&Cr1=

 




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