As world leaders have been occupied with one economic crisis after another, a hunger and malnutrition crisis affecting millions of children has gone unchecked. While the world has been experiencing years of financial turmoil, pervasive long-term malnutrition is slowly eroding the foundations of the global economy by destroying the potential of millions of children.
This crisis is not new. Progress on reducing malnutrition has been pitifully slow for 20 years. But a combination of global trends – climate change, volatile food prices, economic uncertainty and demographic shifts – is putting future progress on tackling malnutrition at risk.
Action must be taken now to prevent the crisis deteriorating and more children suffering the life-long consequences. By mid-2013, it will already be too late to make a difference to the last generation of children who will reach their second birthday – a crucial nutrition milestone – by 2015. That’s the deadline for the eight Millennium Development Goals, six of which are dependent in part on tackling malnutrition.
Every hour of every day, 300 children die because of malnutrition. It’s an underlying cause of more than a third of children’s deaths – 2.6 million every year. But it’s not recorded on death certificates and, as a result, it’s not effectively addressed.
Even for those children who survive, long-term malnutrition causes devastating and irreversible damage. Lack of nutritious food, coupled with infection and illness, means their bodies and brains don’t develop properly. At least 170 million children are affected by stunting.
This means that not only are they too short for their age – they’re also likely to enrol at school later and to do less well academically. For example, iodine deficiency, a type of malnutrition caused by a lack of specific nutrients, affects one-third of schoolchildren in developing countries and is associated with a loss of 10–15 IQ points.3 Childhood malnutrition can lessen productivity – stunted children are predicted to earn an average of 20% less when they become adults.
If current trends continue, the lives of more than 450 million children globally will be affected by stunting in the next 15 years.
Click on the image to downloan