New Report Using Young Lives Research Shows Impact of Malnourishment on Children's Learning

31 May, 2013

A new report published by Save the Children, Food for Thought, features Young Lives research on the learning gap experienced by children who are stunted through malnourishment.

The report is published in the run-up to a meeting on nutrition being held in advance of the G8 summit of world leaders which will take place in Northern Ireland next week.

The meeting on Nutrition for Growth: Beating Hunger through Business and Science will bring together business leaders, scientists, government officials, and civil society groups to make commitments to tackle under-nutrition in some of the poorest countries. It is being co-hosted by Britain, Brazil and the Children's Investment Fund Foundation.

The Save the Children report finds that huge progress has been made for children over the past two decades, with the number of children dying under the age of 5 falling from 12 million to 6.9 million. But malnutrition threatens to undermine these advances, contributing to the deaths of 2.3 million children a year and for millions more children contributing to failures in cognitive and educational development.

Researchers measured the learning of children who were stunted at the age of 5 compared with their non-stunted peers and evaluated the gap in educational achievement and learning ability at the age of 8.

Effects associated with stunting at the age of 5 meant that children were nearly one-fifth less likely to be able to read a simple sentence and nearly 13 per cent less likely to be able to write a simple sentence. As stunted children fell behind with their work, they were more likely to be kept back with younger children at school, with this group being 13 per cent less likely to be in the appropriate grade for their age.

The study charts how these disadvantages mount, as children who have to re-sit their grades were more likely to leave school earlier, a particular problem given many of the children have already received inadequate amounts of schooling because of their delayed learning. This reinforces other analysis from Young Lives that tracks the long-term effects of poverty on their schooling and later prospects in the jobs market.

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