Can you draw a circle?
How malnutrition hurts children into adulthood
Can you draw a circle? Most of us can. But if you lacked food as a child, you wouldn’t be able to draw one now. You would lack the manual dexterity and hand-eye coordination that makes it possible to draw a picture of something as simple as a ball.
Stunting affects a quarter of the world’s children aged under five, according to FAO’s newly released report, The State of Food and Agriculture 2013. This means they are not getting enough nutrition to grow and perform the basic tasks that most of us take for granted.
Stunting results from a chronic lack of food. Stunting slows a child’s growth both physically and mentally. Adults who were stunted as children are more likely to develop serious health problems and be unable to contribute to their community or economy. Adults who suffered from stunting as children are often among those who leave rural areas for cities where they find cheap refined foods. The sudden availability of these high-calorie, low-nutrition foods frequently leads them to become obese and to suffer from related health problems like diabetes and heart disease. These compounding nutrition problems can slow the development of countries as a whole.
UNICEF recently released a report about Improving Child Nutrition, which not only calls attention to malnutrition, but also demonstrates what strategies have been working to eradicate it.
A child must have a healthy beginning to grow up healthy. Here at the EndingHunger movement we have already talked about the importance of the first 1,000 Days of a child’s life, from conception to his/her second birthday. It is a critical time when nutritious food and health care are crucial. Without it, too many children end up in a situation like that of 7-year-old Achta in Chad. She is physically the size of a 3 year old and lacks the basic skills of normal children her age.
The only way to stop this is for countries to commit to ensuring every child has access to nourishing food, and then make the tough political and budgetary choices to see that it happens. International support is essential, too. The UN Secretary-General’s Zero Hunger Challenge calls on all countries to end malnutrition among children. The World Health Organization has declared its own target to lower by 40 percent the number of stunted children by 2025.