Child Hunger Still a Major Problem in Developing World
The United Nations had set a target for developing countries around the world to cut the proportion of children who suffer from hunger in half by 2015 from 1990 levels. It is true that childhood hunger has improved since its peak in 1985. However, insufficient progress has been made, and only five percent of the developing world is on track to meet the UN target. One in five infants and children are moderately or severely underweight, amounting to 110 million children around the world. Further, another 148 million are mildly underweight.
A recent study has documented the lack of progress on this issue, conducted by researchers at the School of Public Health at Imperial College London. They took the UN target, outlined as part of its Millennium Development Goals, and compared it to their findings.
They found that 61 out of the 141 developing countries are projected to meet that target. However, in the developing world as a whole, less than five percent of people have a chance at succeeding. The strongest improvements have been in Asia and Latin America. The region falling behind is sub-Saharan Africa.
To assess childhood hunger, they based their scores off of height and weight relative to age. The data was obtained through national surveys and other sources. The analysis produced the following conclusions:
- One half of the world's underweight children live in South Asia, mostly in India.
- Moderately to severely underweight children dropped from 30.1% to 19.4% between 1985 and 2011.
- Moderate to severe stunting (insufficient growth in height for their age) dropped from 47.2% to 29.9% during the same period.
- Nutritional status in Ivory Coast and Niger was worse in 2011 than in 1985. All other regions improved over this time period.
According to lead author, Majid Ezzati, "Our analysis shows that the developing world as a whole has made considerable progress towards reducing child malnutrition, but there are still far too many children who don't receive sufficient nutritious foods or who lose nutrients due to repeated sickness. Severe challenges lie ahead. There is evidence that child nutrition is best improved through equitable economic growth, investment in policies that help smallholder farmers and increase agricultural productivity, and primary care and food programmes targeted at the poor. We mustn't allow the global economic crisis and rising food prices to cause inequalities to increase, or cut back on investments in nutrition and healthcare."
The study was funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and published in the journal, Lancet.
Hungry Children image via Shutterstock