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 53.

    It should not be about what you can afford. This is a global problem and not the problem of countries in isolation. We are now being held to ransom by investors as well as banks (and politicians). There is enough money and enough food in the world to ensure that everyone gets fed and has an equal share. It’s time to start building a fairer economic system. This one is not fit for purpose.

  • rate this

    Comment number 52.

    Bangladesh is a poor country. I don't know about Peru and Pakistan. But India is home not only to the grindingly poor, but also to people whose wealth is of quite staggering proportions ; and ditto oil-rich Nigeria. There should be NO need for aid agencies to pour their resources into those two countries.

  • rate this

    Comment number 51.

    38. Seriously .... there's a magic pixie who lives in your computer ... his name is Mr Spell Check. Although I think trying to sort out that post might have made him cry

  • rate this

    Comment number 50.

    25.David H

    For all you are getting negative views on your post what you say is true... even if we do not wish to admit it. From any system, some benefit while others don't. We wish things cheap, someone must pay the price for that. We wish large food selections, that food must come from somewhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 49.

    I saw an intresting documentry on genetically modified foods and how the maufacturers of these products delibratley modify the plant NOT to produce seeds so the farmer has to buy more seeds from the seed manufacterer so it pushes up the price of the product.

  • rate this

    Comment number 48.

    Is it not beyond the government and the major supermarkets to take two simple actions:

    1. Higher the price of alcohol

    2. Lower the price of basic foodstuff

    = common sense and they both bring their own rewards, lesser alcohol related problems, cost to the NHS and taxpayer, healthier population.

  • rate this

    Comment number 47.

    38 It would take several Guinesses to think that this topic is simple. A genius knows it is very complicated.

  • rate this

    Comment number 46.

    Can we please sort ourselves out before helping out other countries?

  • rate this

    Comment number 45.

    Of course the price of food is rising. Out of control rising population and climate change with the resultant localised disputes are between them creating a serious problem for the entire human race.
    It is within the potential of the human race to solve these problems but greed by rich and powerful individuals and ignorance by the majority of the people will prevent this from happening.

  • rate this

    Comment number 44.

    25. David H

    I feel sick!

  • rate this

    Comment number 43.

    This has been going on for decades. Why do these people keep breeding, when they can't feed what they've got? Is it their 'right' to keep killing their own children? Has decades of aid done anything other than subsidise the 3rd World's genocide on it's own babies? Simply ploughing on breeding only causes more suffering. Aid only encourages more suffering.

  • rate this

    Comment number 42.

    There are plenty of children in this country on the breadline. How about India and Pakistan , instead of spending their money on nuclear weapons,spend that money on their poor people instead.Oh I forgot,they want us to spend what little cash we have on their poor instead of our own first.Let their goverments do something for their poor for a change instead of always relying on the bad bad west.

  • rate this

    Comment number 41.

    Dear polartiger (no. 28): the carrying capacity of the planet is in fact rather small, and certainly limited; we are already "mining" the Earth at 1.5 times its recovery capacity. Why is everyone so scared of admitting that smaller numbers at a good standard of living is preferable to maximum numbers on the brink on starvation?

  • rate this

    Comment number 40.

    33. stubbs66
    Sort ours out first, then concentrate on other countries' politicians.

    In the mean time back to food speculators. Nothing to do with putting money into the system to improve production and distribution. Only to make money out other peoples' lives.


  • rate this

    Comment number 39.

    The UK government and people give a fair amount in aid - go ask other rich countries to give their fair share.

    Of course these other rich countries tend to be the ones that don't bother too much about their own poor so good luck with that.

  • rate this

    Comment number 38.

    well what do people expect!!! everything goes up in price but wages havent gone up for years and benifits are a joke they complain about people getting to much honestly people do not get enough it doesnt take a guiniess to work it all out does it?

  • rate this

    Comment number 37.

    "Nature used to decide about who lives and who dies"

    It still does, but instead of animals roaming the countryside to be hunted it is now hunting for prepackaged food. Disease & hunger still kill but the hunting environment has changed from the wilds to the boardroom & marketplace.

  • rate this

    Comment number 36.

    The primary reason for hunger getting sharply worse over the past two years is simply the legal requirement have bio fuel mixed with oil, resulting in foodstuffs and food-growing land being used to 'grow' bio-diesel for developed countries. The immediate solution is simple, ban the use of foodstuffs and food-growing land from being used for bio-diesel! This scenario was predicted in 2005.

  • rate this

    Comment number 35.

    The reality is that there is ENOUGH food to feed the people in these countries.

    Firstly, these families need to be educated that if they cannot AFFORD to provide food and shelter then they should not have so many children.

    Secondly, it is the governments of thses countries that should get their priorities sorted out: feed your nation before squandering money on defence and space programmes.

  • rate this

    Comment number 34.

    ... and, to those commenting as usual in their patronising way, about birth control, they forget that child mortality in many countries remains very high ... hence larger families. You'd think,after all these years of trolling through HYS, some knowedge would have sunk in.


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