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Childhood malnutrition poses major threat to the long-term economic growth of developing nations

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
May 31st, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Starvation and famine across the globe is always good for some quick sensationalism. Crying others, young children reduced to skeletons - it all makes for solid news copy. However, a far more insidious threat to the earth's well being remains malnutrition, where children get enough to eat to stay alive, but remain deprived of nutrition. The long term effects of malnutrition have a deleterious effect on developing nations, and the rest of the word.
 

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - According to a new report by the Britain-based charity Save the Children UK, one-quarter of the world's children may underperform at school because of chronic malnutrition. The group says that tackling malnutrition should be a priority for G8 leaders meeting next month in Northern Ireland.

A stunted eight-year-old is almost 20 percent more likely to find it hard to read basic sentences than someone of the same age who has a good diet, according to a new report published this week.

"Those who are malnourished have consistently scored lower on math tests and found it more difficult to read a simple sentence at age eight. And as they go through life that effects their confidence, career aspirations and ultimately their ability to earn money," David McNair, head of growth, equity and livelihoods at Save the Children UK says.

Entitled "Young Lives," the study involved thousands of children, covering Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam.

The time when a woman becomes pregnant until a child is two years of age is a critical time for brain development. If the pregnant or breast-feeding woman and the infant don't have access to the right nutrients, both brain development and cognitive performance can be compromised.

"There is interesting evidence on the stimulus they receive. Because children who are malnourished look smaller, their parents and their caregivers tend to treat them as if they were younger than they are," McNair says. "And that means they do not get the right stimulus and their brains are not developing as a result of that stimulus," he said.

The impact of childhood malnutrition poses a major threat to the long-term economic growth of many developing countries, the report says in conclusion.

U.N. figures suggest that last year nearly 50 percent of children under five in southern Asia and 40 percent of under-five in sub-Saharan Africa were stunted - too short for their age due to poor nutrition.

There's a heavy price to pay for this neglect. Malnourished children may, as adults, earn 20 percent less than their nourished peers, costing the global economy more than $100 billion a year.



 

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