Share this article Share this article

What's Inside


According to Common Wealth or Common Hunger? Malnutrition and its impact on Child Survival in the Commonwealth (2010), Save the Children,

• India, host to the 2010 Commonwealth Games, has both the highest number and the highest proportion of malnourished children in the world. Nearly half of all under-fives in India–55 million children–are malnourished, almost 7 million of them with severe acute malnutrition.

• The estimated number of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) children in India is 6941387, which is roughly 6 percent of total children in the age group 6-59 months. The prevalence of SAM among children in the age group 6-59 months is 6 percent in Pakistan and 3 percent in Bangladesh. 

• In Chhattisgarh, a ‘child protection month’ is celebrated twice a year (April and October) and delivers a package of services to more than 85% of children.The services include vitamin A supplementation, deworming, growth monitoring, immunisation focused on children never or only partially vaccinated, and salt testing for iodine content in households and community feeding centres.

• There are three measures of child malnutrition:

* Chronic, long-term malnutrition can result in children being too short for their age (stunted).

* Acute, fast-onset malnutrition results in a child being dangerously thin for their height (wasted).

* An underweight child has a low weight for their age and could be chronically and/or acutely malnourished. It is also the key indicator for MDG 1.

• More than two-thirds of stunted children (88.5 million, 68.6%) and nearly half of those who are underweight (95 million, 48.7%) live in just seven Commonwealth countries–India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda. India, alone, has 55.5 million underweight children.

• A major cause of malnutrition is a poor diet, which makes newborn babies and infants more vulnerable to infection and less able to recover from common childhood illnesses such as pneumonia and diarrhoea. Poverty; household food insecurity; the low status of women; poor hygiene, sanitation and access to clean water; and inadequate public health services all contribute to malnutrition and are a threat to children’s survival.

• Bangladesh and Pakistan have high rates of malnourished children – 41% and 31% respectively.

• In India, 36% of women are malnourished with a body mass index of less than 18.5 kg/m2 compared with 12% in Nigeria. Malnourished mothers often give birth to smaller children. India, Pakistan and Bangladesh all have significantly higher levels of children being born at low birth weight than developing countries in other parts of the world. In these three countries, between 22% and 32% of babies are born weighing less than 2.5kg. They begin life already malnourished and at a disadvantage. Many are unable to catch up and therefore remain underweight.

• Breast milk provides all the energy and nutrients an infant needs during the first six months of life. Rates of exclusive breastfeeding (children below 6 months) are poor at 37%, 43% and 46% in Pakistan, Bangladesh and India respectively, but are even lower in Nigeria and at 13%.

• An estimated one third of children under five years old in the developing world are stunted–that’s 195 million–and 129 million are underweight.

• Globally, more than 3 million children die every year from undernutrition related causes.

• An estimated one-third of children under five years old in the developing world are stunted–that’s 195 million children–and 129 million are underweight.

• The critical period, when malnutrition can have the most irrevocable impact, is during the 33 months from conception to a child’s second birthday – the first 1,000 days. After two years of age, it is much harder to reverse the effects of chronic malnutrition, particularly its impact on the development of the brain.

• Thirty per cent of the world’s population lives in the 54 diverse countries that make up the Commonwealth–and at least 64% of the world’s underweight children.

• Malnutrition is also an underlying cause in 35% of all preventable deaths in children under five each year. Even those who survive are likely to suffer from recurring sickness, impaired physical and mental development, and reduced productivity.

• The success of vitamin A supplementation programmes targeting children 6–59 months of age has been proven, with an estimated 24% reduction in all-cause mortality.

• In May 2008, the Copenhagen Consensus, a panel of top economists, determined that providing micronutrients in the form of iodised salt, vitamin A capsules and iron-fortified flour for 80% of the world’s malnourished children would cost US$347 million a year and yield US$5 billion from avoided deaths, improved earnings and reduced healthcare spending.


According to Investing in the future: A United Call to Action on Vitamin and Mineral Deficiencies-Global Report 2009,

• Vitamin A, iodine, iron, zinc and folate play pivotal roles in maintaining healthy and productive populations.

• Approximately one third of the developing world’s children under the age of five are vitamin A-deficient, and therefore ill-equipped for survival.

• Iron deficiency anaemia during pregnancy is associated with 115,000 deaths each year, accounting for one fifth of total maternal deaths.

• Research has shown that, where a population is at risk of vitamin A deficiency, vitamin A supplementation reduces mortality in children between six months and five years of age by an average of 23%. Global efforts to provide young children with twice-yearly supplements have involved 103 countries. In 1999, just 16% of children in these countries received full supplementation. By 2007, that number had more than quadrupled to 72%.

• In communities where iodine intake is sufficient, average IQ is shown to be on average 13 points higher than in iodine-deficient communities. Between 1993 and 2007, the number of countries in which iodine-deficiency disorders were a public health concern was reduced by more than half, from 110 to 47.

• In 2008, the Copenhagen Consensus panel determined that vitamin A and zinc supplementation for children provided the very best return on investment across all global development efforts.

• Iron supplementation during pregnancy lowers the risk of maternal mortality due to haemorrhage, the cause of more than 130,000 maternal deaths each year.

• Eliminating anaemia in adults can result in productivity increases of up to 17%. These increases are equivalent to 2% of GDP in the worst affected countries.

• Iron-deficiency anaemia during pregnancy is associated with 115,000 women’s deaths each year, which account for one fifth of total maternal deaths

• Deficiencies in vitamin A and zinc are particularly dangerous for children who are fighting measles, diarrhoea and malaria.

• Iron-deficiency anaemia is also estimated to cause almost 600,000 stillbirths or deaths of babies within their first week of life.

• In developing countries, 38 million newborns each year are at risk of iodine deficiency.

• In 2006, approximately 1.62 billion people had anaemia.

• In China, vitamin and mineral deficiencies represent an annual GDP loss of US$ 2.5-5 billion. In India, they may be costing the country US$ 2.5 billion annually – equivalent to approximately 0.4% of GDP.



Rural Expert

Related Articles


Write Comments

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


Video Archives


share on Facebook
Read Later

Contact Form

Please enter security code