What is stunting?
If we want to put this in simple words, stunting can be defined as the impaired growth and development of children. Though this can sound like it is just related to low height of a child, the real-world impacts ripple well beyond physical measurement. Beyond height, stunting negatively affects a child’s brain function, organ development, and immune system, thus defining the child’s lifelong health and future productivity. Children who are stunted are also more likely to have stunted children, and are prone to be in the vicious cycle of stunting.
What causes stunting?
It is largely the effect of inadequate food and repeated bouts of infections in the first 1000 days of a child’s life. This early childhood, starting from pre-natal period is very crucial. In this period, proper and diverse food, safe drinking water and sanitation, healthcare and hygiene are essential. Otherwise children might develop various chronic diseases decreasing their ability to grow soundly. Indirectly linked, yet still very important are the factors of gender equality, illiteracy and poverty.
How can stunting be prevented?
The effects of stunting are largely irreversible, but luckily stunting can be prevented among the children-under-five by taking proper steps in their first 1000 days.
Pre- and post-natal care is important for both mother and baby, ensuring six months exclusive breastfeeding. Breast milk strengthens an infant’s immune system, and gives the child the nutrients needed to grow. While low birthweight can predispose a child to stunting later in life, good nutrition and care, safe sanitation and hygiene in early childhood can help prevent stunting and let the children grow up up up.
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Learn more: WHO database on stunting