Nearly 250 million children in developing countries are at risk of poor development due to stunting and poverty. In Ethiopia, lack of nutrition in children can cost up to 16.5 percent of the country’s GDP. These are some of the key figures that are included in the State of World’s Children 2016 report by UNICEF.
A new campaign by UNICEF has begun to increase awareness about the need to invest in nutrition during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life. These first 1,000 days are described as a critical window of opportunity for brain development. The campaign that was launched on January 10, 2017 aims to underline the importance of investment in early childhood as it is one of the most cost effective ways of increasing the ability of all children to reach their full potential, increasing their ability to learn in school and, later, their earning capacity as adults.
This is especially significant for children growing up in poverty. “One 20-year study showed that disadvantaged children who participated in quality early childhood development programs as toddlers went on to earn up to 25 per cent more as adults than their peers who did not receive the same support,” reads UNICEF’s statement.
Globally, 80 percent of child mortality occurs in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa and almost half of that occurs in only five countries: the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, India, Nigeria and Pakistan.
The UNICEF report states that, for Ethiopia to achieve the SDG target by 2030, the under five mortality rate in Addis Ababa, the country’s best performer, will have to fall by more than one third. The worst performing region, Benishangul-Gumuz, will have to cut mortality by more than two thirds from 2015 to 2030, the report also states.
Child and infant mortality rates are key indicators of whether or not a country is developing. While Ethiopia has been one of the best when it comes to reaching the Millennium Development Goals by significantly reducing the rate of under five mortality, the country still officially sits in 37th place with the one of the highest burdens of child mortality.