30 May 2013

Malnutrition is the hidden cause and effect of disability for hundreds of millions of children worldwide, according to UNICEF's latest State of the World’s Children’s report.

The research outlines the scale of the problems caused by poor diet, which can leave young children vulnerable to conditions that may lead to physical and intellectual disabilities.

The study also stresses that children who have disabilities are at higher risk of malnutrition.

"Sadly for children in some of the world's poorest countries lack of nutrition can have serious long-term physical and mental effects," says David Bull, Executive Director of UNICEF UK. 

"We need to fight discrimination to make sure all children, including those with disabilities, receive the care they need to develop and fulfil their potential."

Around 165 million under fives are believed to be chronically malnourished, leaving them short of vital vitamins and minerals.

Anaemia, often linked to poor nutrition, is one of the most common causes of disability in the world.

Furthermore, each year up to half a million children are at risk of becoming blind because of vitamin A deficiency, while a lack of iodine - found in foods like dairy products and fish - can lead to brain damage.

"The connections between malnutrition and disability are yet another reason for the UK government to commit to investing in ending hunger." says David Bull. 

 
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