Save the Children is warning of a global increase in acutely malnourished children for the first time in a decade – with the increase most evident in East Asia.
The charity’s Child Development Index – published every four years – measures child development against three criteria: the number of children in school, under five mortality rates and the number of underweight children.
Whilst there has been impressive progress in cutting child mortality and getting more children into school, acute malnutrition is on the rise.
In East Asia, the proportion of children suffering from wasting – an indicator of acute malnutrition - rose by almost 17%.
The findings come amid a back drop of high and volatile food and fuel prices, which is making it much harder for families to afford to feed their children properly.
“When prices of food and fuel increase, children are the first to go without. The Child Development Index is showing very clearly that this is the case. We have seen great improvements in both health and education” said Jasmine Whitbread, CEO of Save the Children, “However we must not forget the most basic of needs: food. This alarming increase in children suffering from acute malnutrition threatens to undo decades of work by governments and the international community.”
However, the picture in other parts of Asia was starkly different. China, the world’s most populous nation, was the highest climber in the Asia region rising 13 places to reach 29thin the Index. The percentage of underweight children there has decreased by 6% points.
Japan is the top of the Index with zero percent of children underweight and a 100% primary school enrollment rate.
“We have seen that progress is possible. We must act now and set national and international targets to dramatically bring down the number of acutely malnourished children,” said Whitbread.
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Notes to editors:
• The increase in malnutrition is specifically based on wasting (acute weight loss as the result of grave deprivation of nutritious food at a specific point in time) which is symptomatic of acute malnutrition.
• Malnutrition is the underlying cause of 2.6 million children dying in 2010 – the majority being attributed to chronic malnutrition
• The CDI uses statistics from the World Bank, UN and national sources, and calculates periodic averages for 1995-99, 2000-04 and 2005-10
• Slow progress in reducing the number of underweight children since 2000 is at odds with the other indicators, prompted the charity to look closer at further figures on wasting (weight for height) and stunting (height for age) thus highlighting that wasting or acute malnutrition actually increased , from the first half of the 2000s to the second.
• The rise occurred in the 2nd half of the decade and there are more hungry children than during the first reporting period starting in 2000. There is as yet insufficient accurate data available for 2011-12.
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