15 February 2012
Last updated at 13:02
After a year of record food prices, millions of parents in India and Bangladesh have cut back on food for their children, a Save the Children survey says. The agency says that a year of record food prices has worsened child malnutrition and could hit progress reducing child deaths. Pictures from Save the Children.
The wide-ranging survey discovered that some children are being forced to abandon school to help pay for food. A third of parents surveyed revealed that their children complained they did not have enough to eat.
One-in-four of the world's children have stunted growth, the report says, meaning their body and brain have failed to develop properly due to malnutrition, which contributes to the deaths of 2.6 million children each year.
Save the Children say that a package of basic measures - including breastfeeding and fortifying basic foods with essential minerals or vitamins - would save the lives of two million children a year and prevent over 60 million young lives from being blighted by malnutrition.
Save the Children says that every hour of every day, 300 children die because of malnutrition, often simply because they do not have access to the basic and nutritious food that is taken for granted in rich countries.
Even before the food price rises, many of the poorest children were surviving on a sparse, low-cost diet dominated by basic staple foods. A child who is chronically malnourished can have an IQ of up to 15 points less than a child properly nourished, Save the Children says.
The survey suggests that in India, one of the world’s biggest boom economies and where half of all children are stunted, more than a quarter of parents said their children went without food sometimes or often.
Save the Children warns that if no concerted action is taken, half a billion children worldwide will be physically and mentally stunted over the next 15 years.
Food prices rose sharply in the first half of last year after severe weather in some of the world's biggest food exporting countries in 2010 damaged supplies, Save the Children says.