Save the Children

Embargoed: 00.01 Wednesday 15th February 2012

East Timor third worst place in world for stunted growth in children new report on hunger and malnutrition by Save the Children

New global survey shows nearly half of families forced to cut back on food with some children having to work to help feed their family, following year of rocketing food prices
A new report on hunger and malnutrition published today by Save the Children ranks East Timor the world‟s third worst place for stunted growth in children.

"A Life Free from Hunger: Tackling Child Malnutrition‟ shows that 54 per cent of children under five in East Timor are stunted due to malnutrition the third highest rate in the world after Niger and Ethiopia.

Save the Children‟s Country Director in East Timor Georgia Noy said, “A whole generation of children in East Timor, one of our nearest neighbours, are at risk of growing up malnourished which will severely limit their lives and opportunity to grow up healthy and productive.”

“It is devastating especially when we know malnutrition can be tackled with simple solutions like encouraging mothers to breastfeed and ensuring pregnant and breastfeeding mothers receive nutrients like iron and calcium so their children grow up healthy, strong and tall. In 2012, there's no excuse for any child to be undernourished.”

New global research by Save the Children has also revealed that, after a year of soaring food prices, nearly half of surveyed families say they have been forced to cut back on food. Nearly a third of parents surveyed said their children complained that they didn't have enough food to eat.

The poll, conducted in India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru and Bangladesn the five countries where more than half of the world‟s malnourished children live – also revealed one in six surveyed had to ask their children to skip school in order to work to help pay for their families‟ food.

The survey contains a snapshot of the hardship that families are facing in countries already struggling with high rates of malnutrition. In its new report the children‟s agency says that rising food prices and malnutrition are putting future global progress on child mortality at risk.

Even before the food price spikes, many of the poorest children were only surviving on a sparse, low-cost diet dominated by a basic staple such as white rice, maize or cassava, which has very low nutritional value.

Save the Children warns that if no concerted action is taken, half a billion children will be physically and mentally stunted over the next 15 years, their lives blighted by malnutrition.

“Malnutrition is a global hidden crisis that is the underlying cause of more than 2.6 million children's deaths every year,” said Save the Children‟s Nicole Cardinal. “A child who is chronically malnourished, can have an IQ of up to 15 points less than a child who is properly nourished. Save the Children estimates the cost to the global economy of child malnutrition in 2010 alone was nearly $111 billion. So it‟s clearly in our economic interests to ensure that every child has enough nutritious food to eat.”

Save the Children says a package of basic measures including fortifying basic foods with essential minerals or vitamins, encouraging exclusive breastfeeding for children up to six months of age, and better investment in cash transfers with payments targeted at the poorest families can turn the tide on malnutrition and reduce vulnerability to food price spikes.

“With simple cost-effective measures including the fortification of food with vitamins and minerals we can prevent the deaths of almost two million children every year,” added Ms Cardinal. “And that says nothing of the contribution that ending malnutrition would make to improving the educational outcomes, opportunities and long-term success of millions more children.”

Save the Children calls on all world leaders to take a few simple measures to tackle malnutrition:
  •   make the crisis visible by setting global and national targets to reduce stunting
  •   increase funding for direct nutrition interventions, such as breastfeeding and fortification, that
    could save millions of lives
  •   plug the health worker gap there is a worldwide need of at least 3.5 million doctors, nurses,
    midwives and community health workers
  •   ensure that agricultural policies aim to improve nutrition including by investing in small-scale
    farmers and ensuring polices reach vulnerable families
  •   galvanise political leadership on hunger and build a concrete action plan to tackle malnutrition

    Save the Children in East Timor has been working with a network of local partners, including Timor Leste's Ministry of Health, to tackle cases of malnutrition since 2010. Save the Children supports the Ministry of Health who lead on monitoring the growth of chi ldren under the age of five to quickly spot cases of malnutrition and then have them referred to local health workers. In 2012, Save the Childre n in East Timor will support the Timor Leste Ministry of Health to roll out training to mothers to ensure they understand, among o ther things, the benefits of breastfeeding and infant feeding practices as well as maternal nutrition. In addition the agency will work w ith the Ministry of Health to pilot drama sessions a successful model of community engagement as a way to address nutrition issues in the community.

    Save the Children‟s survey results showed that: in India, one of the world‟s biggest boom economies and where half of all children are stunted, nearly a quarter of parents surveyed said their children went without food sometimes or often; in Nigeria, nearly a third of parents had pulled their children out of school so they could work to help pay for food; in Bangladesh, 87% of those surveyed said th e price of food had been their most pressing concern in 2010.
    The survey was carried out by Globescan, international polling agency, in December 2011 and January 2012 in Pakistan, Bangladesh, Ind ia, Peru and Nigeria. These countries are the home of half of the world's 170m million stunted children. Proportion of stunted ch ildren in countries surveyed: Pakistan 42% (10.1M) of children stunted, Bangladesh 43% (7M), India 48% (60.5M), Nigeria 43% (10.9M), Pe ru 24% (712,560)

    A randomly-selected sample of over 1000 adults over 18 years was interviewed in each country spanning both urban and rural areas. The data were weighted by income group and male and female. The results are nationally representative. In all but Bangladesh, the interviews were carried out face to face. In Bangladesh, where the penetration rate of mobile phone among adults is between 80 and 90%, the interviews were carried out through random direct dialing.

    For more information or an interview with Georgia Noy or Nicole Cardinal call Ian Woolverton on 0408 00 11 67

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