The Significance of Stunting
Excerpts from the State of the Planet blog post:
- It is often said that a picture can tell a thousand words. Sometimes the same can be said for an indicator. Stunting – a measurement of chronic malnutrition – is one such indicator. Stunting is a complex biological indicator but it is one that uniquely captures the deep rooted causes of childhood malnutrition. It reflects the persistent poverty of a country, the disruptive wars it has undergone, the inflictions of infectious disease, the poor health care access, sanitation, hygiene and child care, as well as the lack of access to and consumption of nutrient dense foods. It is no coincidence that countries with the highest rates of stunting include Timor-Leste, Yemen and Burundi, where over 50% of the under 5 population are stunted. All of these high burden countries have had turbulent histories that have disrupted essential services in health, education, and critical infrastructure and food supplies. Stunting is indeed a snapshot of a country’s history.
Stunting featured prominently on the international agenda over the last few weeks, especially with the pre-G8 “Nutrition for Growth Summit”, which was co-hosted by the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation and the UK and Brazilian governments. The Summit saw vastly increased political and financial commitments to reducing the global number of growth-stunted children. The challenge will now be to turn these political commitments into concrete, evidence-based actions to achieve impact on the ground. Stunting is an indicator that can be tough to move and results will only be achieved through coordinated actions across multiple sectors.