500m children 'at risk of effects of malnutrition'

A volunteer weighs a malnourished child at the Apanalay center in Mumbai, India (Jan 11, 2012) Food price rises could undo work to reduce child malnutrition, Save the Children warns

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Half a billion children could grow up physically and mentally stunted over the next 15 years because they do not have enough to eat, the charity Save the Children says in a new report.

It says much more needs to be done to tackle malnutrition in the world's poorest countries.

The charity found that many families could not afford meat, milk or vegetables.

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

One parent in six said their children were abandoning school to help out by working for food.

A third of parents surveyed said their children complained about not having enough to eat.

The survey was carried out in the five countries - where, the agency says, half the world's malnourished children live - by international polling agency Globescan.

Start Quote

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”

End Quote Delhi mother who lost two children to malnutrition
Record food prices

Save the Children said that a year of record food prices had worsened child malnutrition and could hit progress reducing 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.

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.

The UK's International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, said the charity was right to focus on hunger and malnutrition, and Britain would "continue to urge other countries to match our own efforts in this area".

In its report, Save the Children says that one in four of the world's children have stunted growth - meaning their body and brain have failed to develop properly due to malnutrition.

Eighty percent of stunted children live in just four countries, the charity says.

'Downward spiral'

Malnutrition contributes to the deaths of 2.6 million children each year, according to the report.

Assumpta Ndumi, a nutritionist who works with Save the Children in Kenya, told the BBC's Network Africa programme that successive droughts are causing a downward spiral there:

Justin Forsyth, Save the Children UK's CEO, wants a global 'hunger summit'

"When another drought comes and livelihood assets are destroyed it becomes worse for families to be able to feed their children.

"Milk is very important for families in north-eastern Kenya, so when livestock is lost they basically have no access to a protein source.

"We need to address the hidden hunger because it's killing silently."

Food prices rose sharply in the first half of last year, according to the UN's Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO), after severe weather in some of the world's biggest food exporting countries in 2010 damaged supplies.

The FAO's Food Price Index rose last month for the first time since July 2011, but was still 7% lower than in January 2011.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 33.

    But the rich in those countries enjoy what ever they like, sort there politicians out first then things will come right, this is where our dictator must of got his ideas.

  • rate this

    Comment number 32.

    India and Pakistan have an average of 4 children per family though. Is it any wonder food prices are going up when they are multiplying exponentially?

  • rate this

    Comment number 31.

    Nature used to decide about who lives and who dies; now it would appear it's the commodity brokers' looking to make their very wealthy clients even richer. Too much money at the top, very little at the bottom.. it's not difficult to understand.

  • rate this

    Comment number 30.

    Penalize food producers exporting food to the west. incentivize local food growth and disincentivize farmers growing cash crops for export. Mandate birth control.

    UK needs to stop importing the population overspill from these countries, stop enabling the mismanagement of their respective political establishments. Its about time they faced up to the problem of overpopulation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 29.

    At a time when more food is produced than at any other time in the history of the world that children & adults should be suffering the effects of malnutrition is a disgrace & a sad indictment on the west & our greed driven, selfish culture, we think we're entitled to everything & tough on the rest, shame! It's not simply birth control it's about empathy & a sense of responsibility to others.

  • rate this

    Comment number 28.

    The carrying capacity of planet Earth with todays technology is 150 billion. We live on a huge planet with massive resources.

    The issue is not food, it's money. A certain few people have taken control of our planet and it's resources, they are exploiting the rest for gold.

    It is shameful to live in these times. To be human in this age of human greed is an embarrassment to us as a species.

  • rate this

    Comment number 27.

    Any one heard of birth control ?

  • rate this

    Comment number 26.

    Has anyone thought of this happening here? I struggle to feed my family each week due to rip off prices whilst supermarkets make HUGE profits. And if anyone doesn't think foods gone up then how about this Corned Beef from 80p to £2 in about three years whilst my wages have not moved!

  • rate this

    Comment number 25.

    The free market has its unfortunate side effects. However remember that the system is the best way for people to maximise their profits and has the pretence of great efficiency, as long as you can afford it. You must also remember that poor people provide cheap labour to make your trainers.. Cutting the population will reduce profits and also increase the price of your goods further. Wake up

  • rate this

    Comment number 24.

    Always true. See news item about top tax man and entertaining by companies.

    Even true in UK for our children and families. J.Humphrys did an interesting book on food: very revealing.

  • rate this

    Comment number 23.

    Profiteering speculators are pushing food prices up.

  • rate this

    Comment number 22.

    Population too high for resources = starvation and misery for millions.

    The human race has an urgent moral imperitive to itself and to the planet to cut it's birth rate and improve the lives of a smaller global population.

  • rate this

    Comment number 21.

    Doesn't take a genius to know that the poor are the only ones truly affected by the rises in food prices. These surveys must have incurred expense, just to find out what rich don't care about & the poor everywhere know anyway. This can't be the best use of funds & will do nothing to encourage people here, already prone to xenophobic rants about *third world* poverty, to give more to charity.

  • rate this

    Comment number 20.

    Bangladesh, Peru, Pakistan and Nigeria are truly poor countries. India has a strong enough economy to build nuclear weapons and develop space technology. It is criminal of the Indian government that so few have so much wealth whilst so many are in such desperate poverty. The caste system is pathetic and shoud be outlawed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 19.

    I hear the arguments about birth control and families with 5-10 children. However you must remember that India is a developing country. It's easy to forget that when you live in Britain. Contraception is an easy subject in this country, as is TV advertising about the dangers of STD's and the subject of sex in general. India are not anywhere near this point of openness. We are very privileged.

  • rate this

    Comment number 18.

    "God bless capitalism, ideology of the devil."

    I take it you only buy UK produced food then... as it is capatilism that flies all those foreign fruits, veg & meats to this couintry giving you such a wide variety. - food for thought.

  • rate this

    Comment number 17.

    As a few others have alluded, population is the main issue here, and is the big challenge facing the planet. Unless we as a world society do something to tackle the never ending increase in global population, food prices will be the least of our worries. Water shortages, greenhouse gases, famine, and widescale poverty are already at the door of many, we must tackle population growth.

  • rate this

    Comment number 16.

    The UK's International Development Secretary, Andrew Mitchell, said the charity was right to focus on hunger and malnutrition, and Britain would "continue to urge other countries to match our own efforts in this area".

    Andrew Mitchell would do well to shut up and keep his head below the parapet.His views on foreign aid are at odds with most peoples view in this country at the moment.

  • rate this

    Comment number 15.


    "God bless capitalism, ideology of the devil."

    "because the people of north Korea have loads of food, while America has a huge food surplus which it has to give away."

    Touche, but what a shame America can't find in it's heart to give some of it to it's own poor.

  • rate this

    Comment number 14.

    Dare I mention birth conrol???????????????


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