Children, food and nutrition

Growing well in a changing world

a girl



It is twenty years since The State of the World’s Children last examined children’s nutrition, and, in that time, much has changed.

We have changed where we live: more families have left behind the countryside and moved to cities.

We have changed our roles: women are increasingly joining the formal workforce, balancing work responsibilities with their role as primary caregivers and often with little support from families, employers and societies.

Life on our planet has changed: climate change, the loss of biodiversity, and environmental damage now raise concerns over whether we can feed this generation of children sustainably, never mind the generations to come.

And we have changed what we eat: we are leaving behind traditional diets and embracing modern diets that are frequently high in sugars and fats, low in essential nutrients.

This is the backdrop to children’s malnutrition today. Like so much else, it, too, is changing. A word once inextricably linked in the public’s mind to images of hunger and famine, malnutrition must now be used to describe children with stunting and wasting, but also those suffering from the ‘hidden hunger’ of deficiencies in essential vitamins and minerals as well as the growing numbers of children and young people who are affected by overweight or obesity.

These are the children who are not growing well.

Their numbers are worryingly high. Globally, one in three children under 5 is stunted, wasted or overweight and, in some cases suffers from a combination of two of these forms of malnutrition. In West and Central Africa, the number rises to two in five, with half of children in the Democratic Republic of the Congo not growing well.

UNICEF West and Central Africa Regional Office
Publication date
French, English

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