Good nutrition is the cornerstone for survival, health and development. Well-nourished children perform better in school, grow into healthy adults and in turn give their children a better start in life. Well-nourished women face fewer risks during pregnancy and childbirth, and their children set off on firmer developmental paths, both physically and mentally.
Globally, more than one third of child deaths are attributable to undernutrition.
Global distribution of deaths among children under age 5, by cause, 2010
Child Malnutrition—a Silent Killer
Malnutrition is linked to nearly half of all childhood deaths. Prices for basic food like rice, maize, wheat, oil, sugar and salt are skyrocketing, threatening food security, and forcing millions of the world's poorest children into severe malnourishment and starvation.
In much of the world, children with full bellies are still lacking the nutrients and vitamins they need to grow to their full potential. A malnourished child is less able to fight off illness, less likely to get the most out of schooling, and often becomes physically and mentally stunted. Malnutrition keeps children trapped in the cycle of poverty.
Optimal breastfeeding of infants under two years of age has the greatest potential impact on child survival of all preventive interventions, with the potential to prevent over 800,000 deaths (13 per cent of all deaths) in children under five in the developing world (Lancet 2013).
Breastfed children have at least six times greater chance of survival in the early months than non-breastfed children. An exclusively breastfed child is 14 times less likely to die in the first six months than a non-breastfed child, and breastfeeding drastically reduces deaths from acute respiratory infection and diarrhoea, two major child killers (Lancet 2008). The potential impact of optimal breastfeeding practices is especially important in developing country situations with a high burden of disease and low access to clean water and sanitation. But non-breastfed children in industrialized countries are also at greater risk of dying - a recent study of post-neonatal mortality in the United States found a 25% increase in mortality among non-breastfed infants. In the UK Millennium Cohort Survey, six months of exclusive breast feeding was associated with a 53% decrease in hospital admissions for diarrhoea and a 27% decrease in respiratory tract infections.
While breastfeeding rates are no longer declining at the global level, with many countries experiencing significant increases in the last decade, only 39 per cent of children less than six months of age in the developing world are exclusively breastfed and just 58 per cent of 20-23 month olds benefit from the practice of continued breastfeeding. A growing number of countries are demonstrating that significant and rapid progress is possible, with 25 countries showing increases of 20 percentage points or more.
Adequate Complementary Feeding While Continuing Breastfeeding
Anaemia: Blood and Iron Deficiency
The Importance of a Balanced Diet
Correct Norms of Infant and Young Child Feeding
Importance of Infant and Young Child Nutrition
Iodine: The Importance of Iodised Salt
Nutrition of the Child