Fed to Fail ?

Addressing the Challenge of Children's Diet in Early Life in West and Central Africa

A mother and her baby in front of her home in Fada, in the east of Burkina Faso
UNICEF Burkina Faso/Frank Dejongh




Poor-quality diets are one of the greatest obstacles to the survival, growth, development and learning of children today.

The stakes are highest in the first two years of life, when insufficient dietary intake of nutrients can irreversibly harm children’s rapidly growing bodies and brains, limiting their potential to grow, develop and learn in childhood and earn a decent income later in life. Meanwhile, foods high in sugar, fat or salt can set children on the path to unhealthy food consumption, overweight and diet-related diseases.

The Convention on the Rights of the Child states that governments have a legal obligation to protect and fulfil the right to food and nutrition for all children. Over the last two decades, the world has made significant progress in addressing malnutrition in children under 5, reducing the prevalence of child stunting by one third and the number of children with stunted growth by 55 million. This formidable achievement indicates that positive change for child nutrition is possible and is happening at scale in many countries and regions. Despite such progress, we have collectively failed to protect the right of all children to food and nutrition: an estimated 149.2 million children have stunted growth and 340 million children under 5 suffer from deficiencies in vitamins and other essential micronutrients.

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