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Millions of children face new malnutrition risk

Prices soar and hunger pangs are getting worse

Millions of children face new malnutrition risk
Millions of children at risk of malnutrition worldwide as global food prices soar reporter, Dhaka

February 24, 2012

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It has been a bad couple of years for world food prices. They rose sharply in the first half of 2011 after adverse weather devastated crops and production in some of the world’s main exporting countries. As a result, prices are soaring relentlessly and low income families in Dhaka and the rest of Bangladesh are finding it ever more difficult to make ends meet. “I’ve bought no milk for the kids since the Eid-ul-Azha festival at the start of November and I can only buy eggs for them once or twice a month,” says Shaheda Akhter, a mother of four. “My two eldest sons aged 12 and 14 have had to help the family by going to work, so ultimately they’ve become school dropouts.” Rickshaw puller Latifur Rahman has a similar story. “We can afford meat for the family just once or twice a year,” he says. “I earn 200 to 250 taka (US$ 2-3) a day. Only one of my sons goes to school. I’m hoping to send my other two as well but I don’t know if I can manage it.” These stories are reflected in a new report from UK-based Charity Save the Children. It claims half a billion children could grow up physically and mentally stunted over next 15 years, because they don’t have enough to eat. Entitled ‘A Life Free From Hunger: Tackling Child Malnutrition,’ the report is based on a survey carried out by polling agency Globescan, in India, Bangladesh, Peru, Pakistan and Nigeria- where  half the world’s malnourished children live. Among other findings it states that one in six parents, like Shaheda Akhter, have to make their children abandon school and go out to work, to ease their family’s finances. In a recent interview, a Save the Children director said, “the world has made dramatic progress in reducing child deaths, down from 12 t0 7.6 million. But this momentum will stall if we fail to tackle malnutrition.” “The UK should lead the way in reducing hunger and protecting children from food price rises,” he added,  “and it should begin with a Hunger Summit with when many world leaders are in London for this summer’s Olympics.” Save the Children notes that the proportion of stunted children in Bangladesh fell 68% in 1990 to 43% in recent years- 3% per year- which is one of the fastest among low-income countries. However, it estimates that about 7 million children in Bangladesh are physically and mentally affected by malnutrition, one of the highest populations in the world. Related Reports: Caritas blames business for price rises Food price crisis looming, says Oxfam  
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