The international charity organisation 'Save the Children' says as world leaders have been occupied with one economic crisis after another, a hunger and malnutrition crisis affecting millions of children has gone unchecked.
"While the world has been experiencing years of financial turmoil, pervasive long-term malnutrition is slowly eroding the foundations of the global economy by destroying the potential of millions of children", says a new report published by Save the Children entitled: “A life free from hunger,” made available to the Ghana News Agency on Tuesday.
The report said although this crisis was not new, progress on reducing malnutrition had been pitifully slow for 20 years.
It stated, however, that a combination of global trends – climate change, volatile food prices, economic uncertainty and demographic shifts – is putting future progress on tackling malnutrition at risk, and emphasised the need to take action now to prevent the crisis from deteriorating and more children suffering the life-long consequences.
It said by the middle of this year it would already be too late to make a difference to the last generation of children who would reach their second birthday – a crucial nutrition milestone – by 2015, which is the deadline for the eight Millennium Development Goals, six of which are dependent in part on tackling malnutrition.
“Every hour of every day, 300 children die because of malnutrition, which is an underlying cause of more than a third of children’s deaths – 2.6 million every year.
“But it’s not recorded on death certificates and, as a result, it’s not effectively addressed, even for those children who survive, long-term malnutrition causes devastating and irreversible damage", the report emphasized.
It said the lack of nutritious food, coupled with infection and illness, meant children's bodies and brains did not develop properly.
The report held that at least 170 million children were affected by stunted growth which means that not only were they too short for their age, but they were also likely to enroll at school later and to do less well academically.
It noted for example that iodine deficiency, a type of malnutrition caused by the lack of specific nutrients, affects one-third of school children in developing countries and is associated with a loss of 10–15 intelligence quotient points.
“Childhood malnutrition can lessen productivity – stunted children are predicted to earn an average of 20 per cent less when they become adults.
“If current trends continue, the lives of more than 450 million children globally will be affected by stunting in the next 15 years,” the report added.
It said improving nutrition was key to child survival, as it would save many lives and give all children the chance of a good start in life so they could grow up to fulfill their potential.
“Malnutrition is undermining economic growth and reducing the productivity of people trying to work their way out of poverty in the world’s poorest countries,” the report stated.
It said by estimation, about 2 to 3 per cent of the national income of a country could be lost to malnutrition.
Save the Children is the leading independent organization creating a lasting change in the lives of children in need around the world.
It is recognized for its commitment to accountability, innovation and collaboration; its work takes it into the heart of communities where it helps children and families to help themselves.
It works with other organizations, governments, non-profit organisations and a variety of local partners while maintaining its own independence without political agenda or religious orientation.