Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Our indictment of capitalism

300 young children die of malnutrition every hour.

A quarter of children around the world are not getting enough nutrients to grow properly.

More than 30,000 children already die every year in Afghanistan because of malnutrition

170 million children aged under five whose development has been stunted by malnutrition because of lack of food for them and their breastfeeding mothers, and the situation is getting significantly worse, according to Save the Children.

Malnutrition is a silent killer because it is often not recorded as a cause of death on birth certificates. Malnutrition is the underlying cause of a third of all child deaths, the report says, but it never receives the high-profile campaigning and investment accorded to other causes of child mortality such as malaria, measles or Aids. Child deaths from malaria have been slashed by a third since 2000, yet child malnutrition in Africa has fallen by less than 0.3 per cent each year over the same time frame.

In Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Peru and Nigeria – countries which are the home of half of the world's stunted children – recent rises in global food prices are forcing the parents of malnourished children to cut back on food and pull children out of school to work. One in four parents in the countries surveyed have been forced to cut back on food for their families. One in six have had children skip school to help their parents at work. In India, half of all children are stunted from malnutrition with a quarter often going without food entirely.

Most malnourished children, around 85 per cent, do not die but are diminished, physically and mentally. Children with stunted growth can have an IQ 15 points lower than a well-fed child's.

A third of parents surveyed said their children routinely complain they do not have enough to eat. One in six parents can never afford to buy meat, milk or vegetables. Over the past five years the price of food has soared across the globe, thanks to extreme weather conditions, diverting farmland to grow biofuels, speculative trading of food commodities and the global financial crisis. The poor, who spend the bulk of their income on food, are hit hardest. In Afghanistan, the price of food has risen 25 per cent – the average rise worldwide in 2011. In places like Kenya it is up 40 per cent.

"If no concerted action is taken," warns Justin Forsyth, the charity's chief executive, "half a billion children will be physically and mentally stunted over the next 15 years"

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