|A malnourished Sudanese child at a treatment center in the Darfur area|
A new report from the United Nations says the world must do much more to reduce the number of underweight children. It says one in four children under the age of five is seriously underweight. Malnourished children face increased risk of disease and early death.
Poor nutrition is linked to more than half of all child deaths. Experts say it is a cause in more than five and one-half million deaths each year in children under five years old.
The United Nations Children’s Fund, UNICEF, published the report last week. The report measures progress toward reaching the first Millennium Development Goal: reducing extreme poverty and hunger.
In two thousand, world leaders approved a list of eight goals to reach within fifteen years. The aim is to improve the lives of the world’s poor.
UNICEF says China has already met the target of a fifty percent reduction in the number of underweight children. It says China has cut the rate from nineteen percent to eight percent. A growing economy and government efforts to reduce poverty and improve nutrition are given credit.
But UNICEF says at current rates, the goal of cutting malnutrition in half worldwide will not be met. It says rates of underweight children in developing countries have dropped by just five percentage points since nineteen ninety.
The head of UNICEF, Ann Veneman, says nutrition affects life at every point of development, starting before a child is even born. But she says too many people do not know about its importance, and how serious a problem there is around the world.
UNICEF says about one hundred forty-six million children in developing countries, twenty-seven percent, are underweight. It says the problem is worst in South Asia. Bangladesh, India and Pakistan have half the world’s underweight children.
The report says almost one-third of children in southern and eastern Africa are undernourished. The problem is fueled by conflict, food crises and widespread disease. The report says only one country, Botswana, is making enough progress to reach the goal by two thousand fifteen.
UNICEF says food aid alone is not enough to solve the problem of undernourished children. Still, it says adding nutrients such as iron, iodine and vitamin A to foods would help protect the lives of millions.
This VOA Special English Health Report was written by Cynthia Kirk. Read and listen to our reports at voaspecialenglish.com. I’m Steve Ember.