The Progress of Nations

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 The time to sow
 
 League table: Stunting in children under age 5
     
The success the world has had in protecting children’s rights and realizing human potential is captured far more eloquently in flesh and bone than in concrete or steel, far more tellingly in the height of children than in that of skyscrapers.

This league table presents stunting rates among children under five, which are unconscionably high. In six countries of East and South Asia, at least half of the children are stunted, as are 40% of children in sub-Saharan Africa.

Stunting does not come easy. It happens over time, and means that a child has endured painful and debilitating cycles of illness, depressed appetite, insufficient food and inadequate care. Many children do not survive such rigours, many of those who do survive carry long-term deficits in mental capacity along with losses in stature.

Short-changing children

Low weight at birth, insufficient feeding, inadequate care and nutrient depletions caused by repeated bouts of illness culminate over time in a child whose height is less than that of other children of the same age. Such stunting is a standard marker of a failure in early growth.

Deprivations in feeding and care that impair growth in the critical first years may also reduce a child’s cognitive development and learning ability, often leading to poor school performance and dropping out.

Some 39% of children under five in the developing world are stunted – around 209 million children. Stunting rates are highest in Asia and sub-Saharan Africa.

Inadequate feeding and repeated illness are the immediate causes of stunting in the young child. This vicious cycle is itself a result of poverty and the consequent inability of families to adequately care for their children. A lack of clean water supply in a poor community, or a long distance between home and health clinic, for example, affects the level of care that can be given.

Stunting also occurs when babies are born underweight because the mother was poorly nourished or because she was herself stunted.

Once established, stunting and its effects typically become permanent. Stunted children may never regain the height lost and most will never gain the corresponding weight. And when the window of early childhood is closed, the associated cognitive damage is often irreversible.

 

UNICEF/96-1485/Pirozzi

UNICEF/92-0885/Goodsmith

Sub-Saharan Africa Middle East and North Africa
Ethiopia

64

Yemen

52

Angola

53

Sudan

33

Madagascar

48

Iraq

31

Malawi

48

Regional average

25

Congo, Dem. Rep.

45

Egypt

25

Lesotho

44

Morocco

23

Mauritania

44

Oman

23

Burundi

43

Tunisia

23

Nigeria

43

Syria

21

Rwanda

42

Turkey

21

Tanzania

42

Saudi Arabia

20

Zambia

42

Iran

19

Niger

41

Algeria

18

Regional average

40

U. Arab Emirates

17

Chad

40

Libya

15

Eritrea

38

Lebanon

12

Uganda

38

Jordan

 8

Mozambique

36

Israel

No data

Sierra Leone

35

Kuwait

No data

Central African Rep.

34

 

 

 

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Kenya 33
Zimbabwe 32
Gambia 30
Mali 30
Botswana 29
Burkina Faso 29
Cameroon 29
Guinea 29
Namibia 28
Ghana 26
Benin 25
Côte d’Ivoire 24
Senegal 23
South Africa 23
Togo 22
Somalia 14
Mauritius 10
Congo No data
Gabon No data
Guinea-Bissau No data
Liberia No data

UNICEF/92-0702/Hartley

UNICEF/92-0669/Vilas

Central Asia East/South Asia and Pacific
Afghanistan

52

Korea, Dem.

62

Regional average

37

Cambodia

56

Uzbekistan

31

Bangladesh

55

Kyrgyzstan

25

Nepal

54

Azerbaijan

22

India

52

Kazakhstan

16

Pakistan

50

Armenia

No data

Lao PDR

47

Georgia

No data

Myanmar

45

Tajikistan

No data

Regional average

44

Turkmenistan

No data

Viet Nam

44

Indonesia

42

China

34

Philippines

30

Mongolia

22

Sri Lanka

18

Thailand

16

Australia

No data

Bhutan

No data

Japan

No data

Korea, Rep.

No data

Malaysia

No data

New Zealand

No data

Papua New Guinea

No data

Singapore

No data

UNICEF/99-0246/Horner

UNICEF/91-0419/Sprague

Americas Europe
Guatemala

46

Russian Fed.

13

Honduras

40

Regional average

11

Haiti

32

Romania

8

Bolivia

26

Yugoslavia

7

Peru

26

Czech Rep.

2

Nicaragua

25

Croatia

1

El Salvador

23

Albania

No data

Mexico

18

Austria

No data

Paraguay

17

Belarus

No data

Colombia

15

Belgium

No data

Venezuela

13

Bosnia/Herzegovina

No data

Regional average

13

Bulgaria

No data

Brazil 11 Denmark

No data

Dominican Rep. 11 Estonia

No data

Panama

9

Finland

No data

Uruguay

8

France

No data

Costa Rica

6

Germany

No data

Jamaica

6

Greece

No data

Chile

2

Hungary

No data

United States

2

Ireland

No data

Argentina

No data

Italy

No data

Canada

No data

Latvia

No data

Cuba

No data

Lithuania

No data

Ecuador

No data

Moldova, Rep.

No data

Trinidad/Tobago

No data

Netherlands

No data

  Norway No data
Poland No data
Portugal No data
Slovakia No data
Slovenia No data
Spain No data
Sweden No data
Switzerland No data
TFYR Macedonia No data
Ukraine No data
United Kingdom No data

Sources: DHS, multiple indicator cluster surveys (MICS), WHO and UNICEF, 1990-1998.

 

 
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