Hunger threatens improvements in children's lives - charity
LONDON (AlertNet) - More children survived past their fifth birthday and attended school at the end of the 2000s than a decade before, but a rise in acute malnutrition could undermine these unprecedented gains, a charity says.
By 2010, the chances of a child going to school were one third higher than at the beginning of the decade, and the probability of an infant dying before the age of five was a third lower, Save the Children said on Thursday.
Yet 1.5 million more children suffered from wasting or acute weight loss in 2005-10 than in the first half of the 2000s. This happened as high, volatile food prices and increasingly extreme weather made food less affordable for many poor families, tipping some into crisis.
"Hunger has become the Achilles' heel and unless we tackle it now, it threatens to undermine the overall progress made in cutting child deaths," Save the Children's chief executive, Justin Forsyth, said in a statement to launch the charity's 2012 Child Development Index.
His comments come ahead of a food security summit which British Prime Minister David Cameron said would take place in London during the Olympic Games this summer.
Save the Children wants Cameron to announce that addressing hunger will be the theme of next year's G8 meeting in London.
JAPAN TOP, SOMALIA BOTTOM
The charity’s index assesses the performance of 141 countries based on three key indicators - the under-five mortality rate, the percentage of primary age children not in school, and the percentage of under-fives who are underweight.
Japan topped the list as the best place to be a child, followed by Spain, Germany, Italy and France. At the bottom were Democratic Republic of Congo, Burkina Faso, Chad and Niger, with Somalia being the worst place to be a child.
Although the 10 lowest-ranking countries were in Africa, Tanzania stood out as a success, moving up 30 places. As well as halving child mortality, it has almost halved the proportion of underweight children.
Angola, Benin, Rwanda and Madagascar are other African countries moving rapidly up the index.
Save the Children said globally the number of under-fives dying each year had fallen to 7.6 million in 2010 from around 12 million in 1990 despite a rising birth rate. But the proportion of deaths that occurred in the first month of life increased, accounting for 40 percent of under-five deaths.
Under-nutrition is the underlying cause of one third of child deaths, the charity said. India, Nigeria, Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan and China account for about half the global under-five mortality figure.