About 159 million under-fives suffer impaired growth and brain development, but now a study is challenging the view that nothing can be done to help them. Feeding interventions alone are not enough. Environmental factors have to be addressed too.
A quarter of all stunting is linked to chronic diarrhoea in the first two years and almost 90% of cases are the result of a lack of clean water, sanitation and hygiene. Air pollution and the use of biomass fuel play a part. Perhaps better gender parity will prove most significant. If stunting begins in the womb, then clearly maternal health is key: shorter mothers are more likely to have stunted children.
Good nutrition, healthcare and sanitation are crucial to a child’s early development. Without these, a child’s brain won’t develop properly. They will have a lower IQ and they will grow up shorter than they should, a condition known as stunting. The Observer’s food critic, Jay Rayner, explains how a child’s future is determined by the first years of life.