Nutrition - Child and adolescent health
Only nine countries on the continent are on track to reach MDG Target 1 of halving hunger and malnutrition by 2015. Africa has high levels of maternal and child undernutrition and poor feeding practices. Today, 25% of children under 5 years of age in Africa are underweight. More than one third of children under five in Africa are stunted.1 And despite some recent progress, only 31% of infants in the Region are exclusively breastfed for their first six months. Complementary feeding frequently begins too early or too late, and foods are often nutritionally inadequate and unsafe.
A lack of certain key micronutrients can also damage the health of the mother and child, and increase the risk of maternal and child mortality. For example, anaemia affects 42% of pregnant women globally, ranging from 24% in the Americas to 57% in Africa, raising the risk of premature birth, low birth weight, haemorrhage and sepsis. Zinc deficiency in children is associated with increased risk of pneumonia, diarrhoea and malaria. However, the national prevalence of zinc is high in most countries of sub-Saharan Africa. Vitamin A supplementation to children is implemented by 72% of countries, while salt iodization is implemented by 61%.2
The nutritional challenges faced by most African countries are well known. They include meeting the energy needs and strengthening the immune systems of people with communicable diseases such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis; increasing household food security through improved food availability and affordability; increasing dietary intake across the life cycle through appropriate feeding practices and debunking of food taboos; and addressing the high consumption of sugars and fats that contribute to diet-related disorders.
WHO is currently collaborating with Member States on the development of a comprehensive plan on infant and young child nutrition. This is a critical component of a global multisectoral nutrition framework to address the challenges outlined above.
- ↑ Briefing for the Day of the African Child Reaching Millennium Development Goal 4: What progress has Africa made and what more needs to be done? UNICEF, New York 2009
- ↑ de Benoist B, McLean E, Egli I, and Cogswell M (eds), 2008. Worldwide prevalence of anaemia 1993–2005: WHO global database on anaemia, World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Accessed 06 April 2010 http://whqlibdoc.who.int/publications/2008/9789241596657_eng.pdf
- ↑ Black, RE et al., 2008. Maternal and child undernutrition: Global and regional exposures and health consequences. Lancet, 371:243-260