Malnutrition is one of the greatest challenges facing human development in West and Central Africa, and the single largest killer of children under five years of age. Infants who are not breastfed and children who eat a poor diet often suffer from malnutrition, stunting their growth. Poverty and poor sanitation also contribute to malnutrition.
Malnourished children are unlikely to reach their full human potential. Stunting affects their brain development, making it difficult for them to learn or perform well in school. Children with stunted physical and mental growth, in combination with lack of education, are more likely to hold low-wage jobs and, as they become adults, are less able to contribute to their countries’ prosperity.
Innovative strategies are urgently required to accelerate stunting reduction and provide a better future for children.
In West and Central Africa, the number of stunted children increased by 20 per cent between 2000 and 2016 – from 23 to 28 million while in the rest of the world, stunting decreased by 22 per cent during that time. Around six million children in West and Central Africa also suffer from severe acute malnutrition – which is about one third of all cases worldwide.