More than one-quarter of all children younger than 5 living in the world’s developing countries are underweight, a major sign of malnutrition and susceptibility to disease, a new report finds.
“Progress for Children: A Report Card on Nutrition” is posted by UNICEF.
UNICEF has also posted further information from the report, such as an interactive map, photo essay, and a video (High or Low bandwidth version) on nutrition and children. (RealPlayer required for viewing).
The study released last week by unicef says that the percentage of such children has fallen from 33 percent to 28 percent since 1990. But that progress is insufficient to address what amounts to an epidemic, it concludes, and not rapid enough to meet the United Nations’ goal of halving the proportion of children who are underweight by 2015.
Poor nutrition contributes to more than half the deaths of children younger than 5 each year, or about 5.6 million worldwide.
“Progress for Children: A Report Card on Nutrition” found that 75 percent of those underweight children are concentrated in 10 countries. The South Asian region had the highest percentage, at 46 percent. Three nations there—Bangladesh, India, and Pakistan—account for half of all the world’s underweight children. Forty-seven percent of India’s children younger than 5 are underweight. Only 2 percent of children in the United States, by contrast, weigh too little, according to the report.
Two regions—Latin America and the Caribbean and East Asia and the Pacific—are meeting unicef targets for reducing the percentage of underweight children. China, in particular, has reduced its proportion by an average of almost 7 percent a year, exceeding the agency’s goals of 2.6 percent. Unicef’s analysis is based on information collected from 190 U.N. member countries.
The New York City-based unicef works in 155 countries to improve health, education, and economic opportunities for children.
A version of this article appeared in the May 10, 2006 edition of Education Week as Progress Slow in Addressing Child Malnutrition in Developing Countries