Every hour of every day, 300 children die because of malnutrition. It is the underlying cause of more than a third of children’s deaths – 2.6 million every year. At least 170 million children are affected by stunting which is due to malnutrition and this number is expected to increase to an estimated 450 million children in the next 15 years, if current trends continue. These are only some of the alarming statistics highlighted in the “A Life Free From Hunger: Tackling Child Malnutrition” Report, prepared by Save the Children and jointly released with Dubai Cares in Arabic in the MENA region.
Tariq Al Gurg, Chief Executive Officer of Dubai Cares, said: “Although hunger and malnutrition have serious repercussions and consequences on the lives of millions of children, the issue, unfortunately, is generally under-prioritized. Malnutrition leads to various health and growth problems in children, making them very susceptible to illnesses which in turn affect school enrolment and attendance rates, learning capabilities and future development.”
Al Gurg added: “The report is being launched and released in Arabic in order to reach out to regional audiences and create maximum support and awareness as we prepare to tackle and solve the malnutrition crisis especially in developing countries along with our international partners. We are hopeful and confident that this report will play a crucial role in encouraging contributions for the purpose of increasing interventions and support from the region for school health and nutrition related primary education programs being implemented in the region or globally.”
Children suffering from malnutrition are likely to enroll in school later than their healthier counterparts and are more likely to perform below their potential, academically. Most malnourished children who manage to complete primary schooling fail to meet the literacy and numeracy standards.
“These children are the future and cornerstone of the world’s economy and malnutrition is destroying their potential. Quality education during primary schooling lays the foundation and equips children with the necessary skills required to attend and complete secondary schooling, university and beyond and become positive contributors to society. It is estimated that 2–3% of the national income of a country can be lost to malnutrition and hence it’s really critical that we take action now, alleviate children currently battling malnutrition and related health and development issues, and prevent more children from suffering life-long consequences,” said Carolyn Miles, President & CEO, Save the Children.
“The ‘Life Free From Hunger’ Report is a great eye-opener for all, not only for NGO’s and other organizations that are focused on tackling child malnutrition, but also for the general public who can play a big role through contributions and spreading awareness of this global crisis, in an effort to ensure that it receives the attention and remedial measures it deserves,” added Miles.
The report highlights the extremely slow progress that has been made globally on reducing stunting. It states that the proportion of stunted children fell from 39.7% in 1990 to 26.7% in 2010 – only 13 percentage points in 20 years or 0.65 percentage points per year. This equates to a reduction from 253 million stunted children in 1990 to 171 million in 2010. A malnourished child is more likely to suffer from disease, and the more they suffer from disease, the more likely they are to be malnourished. Inadequate food intake leads to weight loss, and a weakened immune system, which means that childhood diseases will be more severe and will last longer.
Malnutrition is also often the reason children in developing countries do not go to school or underperform. This is why Dubai Cares is implementing primary education programs that counter malnutrition and ensure that children enroll and complete their primary schooling. These programs are based on the concept of school feeding to encourage parents to send their children to school, where they will not only receive nutritious meals and fortified foods when in school, but also have a chance at gaining valuable knowledge critical for their future development. An example is a 4-year AED10 million Home Grown School Feeding Program that Dubai Cares recently launched in Ghana, which is reaching over 400,000 beneficiaries.
Save The Children has been a long-standing and important partner of Dubai Cares, having successfully developed, implemented and concluded various primary education-related programs globally including current programs in Bangladesh, Indonesia, Mali, Sudan and Yemen.