64 percent of the world’s underweight children are in Commonwealth countries with India toppping the list,says a report titled ‘Commonwealth or Common Hunger’, published by NGO ‘Save the Children’. Nigeria has 5.75 million malnutrition rate and nearly half of all under-fives in India – 55 million children – are malnourished, almost seven million of them with severe acute malnutrition,’ it said.
Closely following India are its neighbours, Bangladesh and Pakistan with malnutrition rate of 41 percent and 31 percent respectively.
Of the African Commonwealth countries, Sierra Leone (21 percent) and Nigeria (23 percent) have the highest proportions of malnourished children, and Nigeria has the highest actual number at over 5.75 million.
‘By hosting the Commonwealth Games against all odds, India has shown that with political will, it can overcome problems and find solutions. With 55 million children under five being underweight, we need to show similar leadership to find a solution to the silent epidemic that is quietly wiping out generations of our children,’ Thomas Chandy, chief executive officer of the Save the Children, said here Wednesday.
According to the report, only nine countries — Botswana, Ghana, Jamaica, Malaysia, Maldives, Mozambique, Singapore, Sri Lanka and Swaziland are — are on track to achieve first of the United Nations Millennium Development Goals (MDG1) to halve extreme poverty by 2015.
‘There are several low-cost interventions to reduce malnutrition that are being implemented successfully in countries like Sri Lanka. For example, support for exclusive breastfeeding is one of the most cost-effective public health interventions and could reduce under-five mortality by as much as 20 per cent,’ the report said.
As a recommendation, the report urges Commonwealth leaders to use child malnutrition indicators as a key measure of the progress of the Commonwealth.
‘Child malnutrition should be used to drive action and investment in countries performing less well… as a whole as it gives a clear picture of how well a society is performing alongside other indicators such as economic growth,’ the report recommended.
‘The motto of the Games is ‘Come out and Play’. We celebrate the Games as an expression of physical talent but that talent can only come to the fore if we ensure that our children are nurtured with good nutrition within the first two years of their birth,’ Chandy added.
An estimated one third of children under five years in the developing world — 195 million — are stunted and 129 million are underweight. More than two-thirds of stunted children (88.5 million, 68.6 percent) and nearly half of those who are underweight (95 million, 48.7 percent) live in just seven Commonwealth countries – India, Bangladesh, Pakistan, Nigeria, Tanzania, Kenya and Uganda, the report said.