Poor nutrition is holding back millions of marginalised children

Early childhood development


Good nutrition is key to helping every child get the best start in life. If they don’t get the right kinds of food in their vital early years, they can be too short for their age and their bodies and brains may never grow to their full potential. 

Being stunted can hold them back when they start school and then in work and life. If they get the right nutrition during the first 1000 days after conception, they will be better prepared later to perform well in the classroom.

But discrimination and poverty are still causing millions of children around the world to have stunted growth, according to new research by Save The Children.

The charity said yesterday the groups most likely to miss out on progress in curbing hunger include children from ethnic minorities, those in disadvantaged regions of their country, children with disabilities and children affected by war

The United Nations says there are about 159 million children whose growth has been stunted by poor nutrition and nearly half of all deaths in children under five are attributable to under-nutrition.

“The world has pledged to … eliminate all forms of malnutrition by 2030,” said Save The Children. “But if we carry on as we are, that simply won’t happen.

A teacher plays with children at an early childhood development programme in Kibera, Kenya Picture: Adriane Ohanesian

“Unless the world dramatically changes course, malnutrition is here to stay.”

The report – titled Unequal Portions – was published as an international summit on nutrition is being held in Rio de Janeiro to coincide with the Olympic Games in Brazil,.

On current trends, said Save The Children, by 2030 there will be 129 million children under five whose growth is stunted by lack of food. 

Of the 115 countries studied, 100 have reduced stunting in children since 2000. Countries which have made the most progress include Afghanistan, Vietnam, Nepal, Ivory Coast, Equatorial Guinea, Bolivia and Ghana.

Out of 48 countries with available data on ethnicity, children in the most disadvantaged ethnic groups had on average 2.8 times higher rates of stunting and six times higher rates of wasting than their more advantaged peers, the report said.

In some countries the disparity was even greater. In Nigeria, 52% of Hausa children were stunted, compared with 14% of Igbo children.

More news

See all news