Published: 1st September 2021
Last year, 149 million children under the age of five were stunted. Of these children, more than half live in Asia and a further 40% live in Africa. Some areas are worse affected than others. In South Asia and in Western Africa, 32% and 29% of children under five are stunted respectively.
Some children are left behind, even before they are born. The first 1,000 days – from conception to a child’s second birthday – provide the foundations for lifelong health and development. During this time, pregnant women and young children who have access to optimal nutrition are more likely to grow and develop as they should, reach their full potential in school and are equipped to earn a decent living later in life.
When children do not have access to optimal nutrition, they are at risk of not growing adequately and may be too short for their age. This is known as stunting, a condition that is detrimental to the life and prospects of the children it affects. Stunting is irreversible and will affect those children into adolescence and adulthood. They are stunted for life. The World Health Assembly calls stunting “one of the most significant impediments to human development“.
Children who are stunted may never reach their full potential. They are at risk of not doing as well in school and have a lower chance of earning a good living when they reach adulthood. If we do not find a way to end stunting, children are likely to be born into the vicious cycle of poverty and malnourishment.
Stunting needs to end. We owe it to all children because every child deserves a fair chance in life. Stunting impairs growth and keeps children from reaching their full potential. By standing up to stunting, all children may get a spot on the same starting line in life.
We owe it to the families because stunting and poverty create a vicious cycle that families are stuck in for generation after generation. Breaking the cycle of stunting is key to breaking the cycle of poverty. Finally, we owe it to societies. Nourishing children helps to nourish economic growth.
Children who are stunted may never be able to reach their full potential and contribute entirely to the economy of their country. A well-nourished population will be able to lead the growth and change of the country.