14 April 2013

A new UNICEF report published today shows that real progress is being made in the fight against stunted growth – the hidden face of poverty for 165 million children under the age of five. 

Improving child nutrition: The achievable imperative for global progress confirms that focusing on pregnancy and the first two years of a child's life is key to preventing stunting. Stunting is not only about a child being too short for his or her age. It can also harm their brain development, so affect their ability to learn.

One in four of all children under five is stunted because they haven't had the right nutritrients during the crucial growth period from conception to the age of two. The damage done to a child's body and brain by stunting is irreversible. 

The UNICEF report highlights successes in 11 countries: Ethiopia, Haiti, India, Nepal, Peru, Rwanda, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Sri Lanka, Kyrgyzstan, Tanzania and Vietnam.

These show that stunting and other forms of undernutrition can be reduced through simple steps like improving women's nutrition, early and exclusive breastfeeding, providing additional vitamins and minerals and appropriate food – especially in pregnancy and the first two years of a child's life.

"Our report proves that stunting can be alleviated with investment in simple, low-cost solutions like exclusive breastfeeding", said David Bull of UNICEF UK.

"In June, the Prime Minister will host the Nutrition and Growth event ahead of the G8; we hope Mr Cameron takes this timely opportunity to pledge significant investment in nutrition programmes and show real leadership in improving children’s futures, as well as those of their communities and their countries."

 
Two-year-old Rabia and her older sister Safa at their home in Chabelley, Djibouti. Hunger has left Rabia unable to walk. © UNICEF UK 2012
Two-year-old Rabia and her older sister Safa at their home in Djibouti. Malnutrition has left Rabia unable to walk. © UNICEF UK 2012