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 333.

    The problem of hunger is bound to increase as the economic crisis continues. But let's not forget that children are going hungry in India and Pakistan and elsewhere not because of western greed, western banks, etc., but because politicians in those countries prefer to divert resources to the military, to prestige projects, and often to their own pockets. Local reform is needed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 332.

    At the same time as giving food aid, contraceptives should be at least made available, along with advice on how to use them and why it is important.

  • rate this

    Comment number 331.

    Save the Children hasn't made any difference so far, has it? What's the point of this news? It's a non-story.

  • rate this

    Comment number 330.

    Population is environmental catastrophe, it is therefore inevitable that food and energy will soon become two forms of the same product, prices will equalise causing even bigger food inflation than we have already seen. In the years ahead the world will have to face up to population control, possibly population control will be have to be a condition of aid.

  • rate this

    Comment number 329.

    How can the starving peoples of the world hope for anything different when the governments are free to ignore them and continue with their corruption and power brokering
    There are two worlds, one for the rich and one for the poor
    The gap between the two is getting bigger, the middle class world wide are in decline and the poor get poorer
    The Rich get Richer
    We live in a world that is lost in greed

  • rate this

    Comment number 328.

    We are repeatedly reminded that there are political, tribal, local, corruption, cultural, financial, natural and religious issues as well as a tendency to over reproduce because of high infant mortallity. How on earth any charity, government or NGO can make any progress with all these problems amazes me. The problem seems to be a piecemeal approach rather than a single source of help and support

  • rate this

    Comment number 327.

    320. teedoff

    Farming on the scale necessary to support 10's of billions of people requires fertilizers . . that requires oil !

    Manure and kitchen 'peelings' and the occasional dead animal carcass just won't cut the mustard !

  • rate this

    Comment number 326.

    What' i'm saying is not new but everytime when i think of those poor children who don't even have basic needs, while most of us who live in developed nations constantly fussing about frivolous things, being mean to one another for no reason and throwing perfectly good food by tons to the bins daily, it just makes me think of God, and what are we doing on this earth..

  • rate this

    Comment number 325.

    13 Minutes ago

    273.you must be right -"...Rising living standards reduce birth rates, after a time lag"

    True, with reference to the 19thC Industrial Revolution and what followed therefrom (for us)
    Also in 20th C, in developing countries that saw major advances. I do agree that there are energy issues btw.

  • rate this

    Comment number 324.

    @321.matt in the uk

    You might want to re-read my comment.

    I'm saying the cold heartless people here who are saying there is no point in helping starving children as they should never have been born should think about it in terms of the UK.

    Its equivalent to saying instead of giving the unemployeed in the UK help to house themselves and find a job we give them contraceptives instead...

  • rate this

    Comment number 323.


    Whose greater good, yours? Or will you be volunteering to go without food to the brink of starvation to stop 'catastrophic climate change'?

  • rate this

    Comment number 322.

    Soldiers here in the US are learning to forge metal so when they go back to Afghanistan they can teach people in small villages to forge tools and create a cottage industry, grow food and possibly even afford to dig a well


    The governments of the world are more interested in buying weapons
    and living in luxury than they are in building an infrastructure of running water and roads

  • rate this

    Comment number 321.

    282. mbco1975

    No. We can send contraceptives to every person on the planet and it does not need affect the welfare or benefits of the unemployed in this country ONE JOT !

  • rate this

    Comment number 320.

    If we are to have any chance of averting catastrophic climate change then food & energy must become prohibitively expensive, for food production is extremely carbon intensive..
    Er, no it's not. Fruit and veg are net carbon capturers.
    I think you mean the way we collect and preserve food, rather than being self-sufficient. Well, that's another debate.

  • rate this

    Comment number 319.

    #25 Can't make out whether this is a joke or not. The free market is what has created our issues - short termism, high price cartels and huge profits for some but low wages, poor conditions and unemployment for most. Regulated markets create long term stability and protection. However for regulated markets you need honest and intelligent regulators. That is the problem. Everywhere.

  • rate this

    Comment number 318.

    257 - what you insinuate is unbelievable I hope the BBC removes your comment

  • rate this

    Comment number 317.

    GM crops could dramatically increase harvests and reduce the impact of weather events (flooding etc).

    However, these same left-wing liberals that are trying to save the poor are preventing the poor from using GM crops that could save lives! Banks are not the problem. Corporations are not the problem. Ignorant left-wing liberals are!

  • rate this

    Comment number 316.

    Overpopulation is NOT the reason children are starving in America
    The 2% have the money to buy what ever they want, a Rolex watch with diamonds around the face or a new billion dollar ski home in Aspen
    They can buy politicians and are in the process of buying a Presidency
    The poor starving children are nothing to them
    Probably seen as the progeny of the ignorant who only want hand outs

  • rate this

    Comment number 315.

    "Sanctions like this brought about a seachange of regime"

    No disagreement, but such are long term goals which does not provide food today. If either short & long term plans fail starvation will return & it's back to square 1.
    Hard to discuss such a complex topic in 400 characters, so many variables and vested interests & then implications.

    But as I said, need to log. Have fun :)

  • rate this

    Comment number 314.

    If we are to have any chance of averting catastrophic climate change then food & energy must become prohibitively expensive, for food production is extremely carbon intensive. This will be tough for some people but sacrifices have to be made for the greater good. Rationing can be circumvented, price cannot.


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