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A REPORT CARD ON NUTRITION: NUMBER 4, MAY 2006 View Previous Editions>

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Nutrition and children
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Nutrition indicators

Low birthweight

More than 20 million infants are born each year weighing less than 2,500 grams (5.5 pounds), accounting for 17 per cent of all births in the developing world – a rate more than double the level in industrialized countries (7 per cent). Infants with low birthweight are at higher risk of dying during their early months and years. Those who survive are liable to have an impaired immune system and may suffer a higher incidence of such chronic illnesses as diabetes and heart disease in later life. Read more -->

Exclusive breastfeeding

Human milk is the ideal nourishment for infants’ survival, growth and development. Exclusive breastfeeding in the first six months of life stimulates babies’ immune systems and protects them from diarrhoea and acute respiratory infections – two of the major causes of infant mortality in the developing world – and improves their responses to vaccination. Particularly in unhygienic conditions, however, breastmilk substitutes carry a high risk of infection and can be fatal in infants. Yet only slightly more than one third of all infants in developing countries are exclusively breastfed for the first six months of life. Read more -->

Iodine deficiency

An iodine-deficient diet results in insufficient thyroid hormone production, which can prevent normal growth in the brain and nervous system and lead to poor school performance, reduced intellectual ability and impaired work capacity. Iodine deficiency is particularly damaging during early pregnancy and childhood, yet it is easily preventable through the iodization of salt. Read more -->

Vitamin A supplementation

Vitamin A is essential for immune system functions and the survival, growth and development of children. The provision of high-dose supplements every four to six months has a dramatic impact on the health of children aged 6–59 months, reducing the risk of mortality by up to 23 per cent. Read more -->

Iron deficiency and anaemia

Around two billion people worldwide suffer from anaemia, most commonly iron-deficiency anaemia, a major cause of maternal deaths and of cognitive deficits in young children; it can permanently affect later motor development and school performance. Anaemia also has a negative impact on the economic well-being of individuals, families and national economies. Read more -->