An adequate well-balanced diet is the bedrock of child survival, health and development. Well-nourished children are more likely to be healthy, productive, and ready to learn. Undernutrition, by the same logic, is devastating. It blunts the intellect, saps productivity, and perpetuates poverty.
Ethiopia has seen a steady reduction in stunting from 58 per cent in 2000 to 38 per cent in 2016, in the percentage of underweight children from 41 per cent to 24 per cent during the same period, and in wasting from 12 per cent to 10 per cent. These trends indicate an improvement in chronic malnutrition over the past 15 years. Yet 28 per cent of child deaths in Ethiopia are associated with under-nutrition. In addition, a high prevalence of various forms of malnutrition among vulnerable groups has serious implications for social development and economic growth.
Anaemia prevalence among under-five children remains high at 57 per cent. Among women aged 15–49 years, 26 per cent are undernourished and 24 per cent have anaemia. Inappropriate infant and young child feeding practices also contribute to malnutrition. While 97 per cent of children are breastfed, only 58 per cent are exclusively breastfed during the first six months and only four per cent are fed four or more food groups. Only 45 per cent of children are fed at least three times a day.
Micronutrient deficiencies in iron, vitamin A, folic acid, iodine and zinc remain the most common.