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Poverty limits potential of 250m children – Lancet study

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By Sola Ogundipe

NO less than 250 million young children across the world are unlikely to fulfil their potential as adults because of stunting and extreme poverty, according to a new Lancet series just released.

Children affected by poverty
Children affected by poverty

While countries like South Africa and Uganda are making progress, Nigeria, 3 others, are at the bottom rung of countries with the highest prevalence of children living in extreme poverty or stunted growth.

According to the report,   Liberia is worst affected with 97 per cent, followed by Zambia and DR Congo (96 per cent), Burundi (95 per cent), Niger  and  Malawi (93 per cent) and Rwanda (86 per cent).

Nigeria, Mozambique,  Tanzania and Ethiopia tie at  85 per cent.

The Lancet report notes that underinvestment in children during their most critical years – zero to three – translates into 25 per cent less income as adults when compared to adults who received the nutrition, care and stimulation they need as children. This low-cost investment has exponential returns.

It notes that for an estimated average of N275 ($0.50 cents) per person per year, two critical early childhood development interventions could be delivered—enhancing nurturing care of children and supporting maternal depression—through existing health and nutrition services.

Giving a snapshot, the Lancet said Low-cost Investment at $0.50/per person could deliver two critical early childhood development interventions, 25 per cent loss of average adult earning potential

While South Asia experienced the largest declines, sub-Saharan Africa had the highest prevalence of stunting or extreme poverty with 66 per cent of under-five at risk and 39 per cent of children stunted.

About 50 per cent of children in the region live under $1.25/day.  At least 41 percent of Nigerian children under age of 5 are stunted.

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