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Feb 23, 2012

Madagascar - Health Survey Finds 50% Children Under 5 Stunted By Malnutrition, Poverty

Trained UNICEF community agent monitors
child for malnutrition in Madagascar
Photo: UNICEF
On 23 February 2012, IRIN reported on the state of child malnutrition and growth stunting in Madagascar.  The Madagascar Demographic Health Survey 2008-09 has concluded that stunting affects half of all Malagasy children under five, the sixth highest rate of stunting in the world, according to the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Children who are stunted are at greater risk of illness and death and impaired cognitive development. Save the Children UK estimates that child malnutrition is resulting in 170 million children globally suffering from growth stunting.  In part this is caused by "volatile food prices, climate change and [if] economic uncertainty continues, more than 450 million children will be affected by stunting in the next 15 years."

According to a UNICEF nutrition expert, some of Madagascar's "high rates of stunting also have much to do with the Malagasy obsession with rice. Although many children consume enough calories, they have trouble growing because their diet consists almost exclusively of rice, to which cassava or a salty soup may be added and, if the family has enough money, some fatty meat.  ... We found that the highest occurrence of stunting is not among the very poor, as they eat the vegetables that they grow instead of selling them, and these are rich in nutrients. The worst cases are those who can afford white rice.”

Nutrition and its relation to growth is a relatively new topic in Madagascar where many people believe that shortness in stature is simply a genetic predisposition.  Madagascar’s National Nutrition Office is active in setting up community nutrition sites, where babies are weighed monthly and mothers receive information about child feeding. In the past 20 years, 5,550 community nutrition sites have been built.

For more see: “Madagascar: Stunted children means stunted lives,” IRIN, 23 February 2012.


About Margaret


CEO and Curator (The Food Museum) | Managing Director and Chief Editor (GR2 Global LLC) | Educator (UCLA PhD) | Researching and writing on global food issues, nutrition and health, sustainability, history (preservation), conservation (natural resources), and design.
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