November 24, 2009

India has the largest number of stunted children: UNICEF

Underlining the dismal state of health and nutrition in Indian children, a UNICEF report says that the country has a whopping 61 million stunted children, the largest in any country. In other words, 3 out of 10 stunted children are from India distantly followed by China that has 12 million children.

Stunted growth is a consequence of long-term poor nutrition in early childhood. Stunting is associated with developmental problems and is often impossible to correct. A child who is stunted is likely to experience a lifetime of poor health and underachievement, a growing concern in India that is demographically a young nation. Astoundingly more than 90% of the developing world's stunted children live in Africa and Asia.

The findings of the `Tracking progress on child and maternal nutrition' also point out that undernutrition contributes to more than a third of all deaths in children under five. Undernutrition is often invisible until it is severe, and children who appear healthy may be at grave risk of serious and even permanent damage to their health and development.

Linking malnutrition to gender equality, the UNICEF report also says that children's health suffers not just due to poor hygienic conditions and lack of nutritional food but also because the mother herself is suffering from anaemia and malnutrition during adolescence and child-bearing. "They become trapped in an intergenerational cycle of ill-health and poverty,'' says the report.

Of all the proven interventions, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months together with nutritionally adequate foods from six months can have a significant impact on child survival and stunting, potentially reducing the under five child mortality by 19% in developing countries. The report includes data showing that 16 developing countries successfully increased their exclusive breastfeeding rates by 20%, in periods ranging from 7 to 12 years.

Link: Original Article

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