Diet and Growth

There is no greater hindrance to a country’s long-term economic development than childhood undernourishment. And simply flooding markets with cheap high-calorie, low-nutrient grains – the preferred approach for many donors – will never solve the problem.

KIGALI – There is no greater hindrance to a country’s long-term economic development than childhood undernourishment. When a growing body does not get enough essential vitamins and nutrients, the harmful effects last long into adulthood.

In low-income countries, diets consist primarily of starches, such as rice, and legumes, like peas, that contain very little protein. So even a child with a full belly does not necessarily get the right balance of nutritious food and vitamins required for healthy physical development.

This takes an enormous toll. Undernourished children are more susceptible to illness. According to UNICEF, children who suffer from severe under-nutrition are 9.5 times more likely to die from diarrhea and 6.4 times more likely to die from pneumonia. Fully one in three preventable deaths among young children worldwide – up to 2.5 million each year – are the result of inadequate nutrition.

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