Friday, 13 April 2012

Child malnutrition: the need for sustainable long-term solutions

In March of this year the head of the Food and Agricultural Organisation warned that in order to avoid a repetition of the crisis seen in the Horn of Africa in the West African Sahel region, there were two to three months left to act. At present more than one million children are at risk of severe malnutrition due to poor rainfall and a 25% decline in food production across the region, reduced flows of remittances from neighbouring countries and rising food prices (Barber R, 2012).

According to the World Heath Organisation, 7.6 million children under the age of 5 die each year, over one third of these deaths are linked to child malnutrition and approximately 40% of all deaths take place during the neonatal period (WHO, 2012). For those children who survive, the Save the Children 2012 report ‘A Life Free from Hunger’, states that iodine deficiency, a type of malnutrition is associated with a loss of 10-15 IQ points and that stunted children are predicted to earn an average of 20% less as adults than non stunted children (Save the Children, 2012).
These facts, in the context of the current crisis in Africa have severe implications for the region’s future development and reiterate the call made by officials of the Food and Agricultural Organisation in 2011 of the need for longer term solutions to famine in the region (the Guardian, 2011). Food security is a long-term issue directly linked to sustainability. The President of the African Development Bank, Donald Kaberuka, stated in 2011 “Africa is no longer a continent battling with large macroeconomic imbalances but rather micro economic issues” and that progress largely relies on sustainable development which addresses ‘inclusive growth, adaptation to climate change, management of natural resources, political management and infrastructure deficit’ (Kaberuka D, 2011).
As with any disaster, children are being disproportionately affected by famine and food insecurity and in consideration of the threats to their immediate and long-term well-being, as stated by UNICEF West and Central Africa Regional Director David Gressly, quick and decisive action is required (UNICEF, 2012).
Barber R, 2012, Decisive action is needed to avoid another famine crisis, Sydney Morning Herald, 09 April 2012, Available at:
The Guardian, 2011, ‘Food experts seek long-term solutions on Somalia famine, [Accessed: 09.04.2012], Available at:
Kaberuka D, 2011, ‘Africa and the Brave New World’, President of the African Development Bank, Statement at the Society for International Development Conference, Available at:
Save the Children, 2012, A Life Free from Hunger: Tackling Child Malnutrition,
UNICEF, 2012, ‘UNICEF races to prevent a major food crisis in the Sahel’, February 24 2012 Available at:
World Health Organisation (WHO), 2012, Children: Reducing Mortality, Fact Sheet No. 178, February 2012,

Hannah Chadwick, Wikichild

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