What are the common issues for countries at the bottom of the index? Nutrition emerges as one of the key factors in determining mothers’ and their children’s well-being. Malnutrition is the underlying cause of at least a fifth of maternal mortality and more than a third of child deaths.
Of the 10 countries at the bottom of Save the Children’s annual index, seven are in the midst of a food crisis. Niger is currently in the grip of a worsening hunger situation, threatening the lives of a million children. Four of the bottom 10 countries have seen an increase in children’s mental and physical growth becoming permanently stunted by malnutrition.
The report illustrates a vicious cycle of young mothers, who may themselves have been stunted in childhood, going on to give birth to underweight babies who have not been adequately nourished in the womb. If a mother is impoverished, overworked, poorly educated and in poor health, she may not be able to feed the baby adequately, with largely irreversible effects. The cycle can be broken by increasing focus on nutrition during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, starting from pregnancy.
New Findings Show Breastfeeding Could Prevent 1 Million Child Deaths Per Year
In new research for the report, Save the Children found that the simple measure of supporting mothers to breastfeed could save 1 million children’s lives every year. Yet the report also shows that less than 40 percent of all infants in developing countries receive the full benefits of exclusive breastfeeding.
“Our research shows that a mother’s breast milk — one single nutrition intervention — can save a million children’s lives each year,” says Save the Children CEO Carolyn Miles. “Breastfeeding is good for babies no matter where they live, but in developing countries, especially those without access to clean water, breastfeeding can be a matter of life or death.”
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by the statistics. It is understandable that we sometimes want to throw our hands up in the air in helplessness, with the cry, “what can really be done?” But your voice truly matters.
Save the Children calls for more global action to tackle the cycle of maternal and child malnutrition when G8 leaders gather in Camp David in two weeks. “We urgently need global leadership on the malnutrition issue, so that policies and programs are put in place to ensure the health and survival of mothers and their babies,” says Miles. Save the Children has declared a range of actions and commitments world leaders must be encouraged to make. You can learn more at savethechildren.org.
Support Save the Children’s Newborn and Child Survival Campaign and visit www.savethechildren.org where you can sign a petition to help world leaders commit to saving children’s lives. Share on your social media channels and invite friends and family to do the same.