According to the World Health Organization, one can say that a child’s growth is stunted if his/her height is 2 standard deviations (2*SD) below the expected for the current age according to the WHO’s child growth standards median. There are many reasons for this, poor nutrition of course, but also frequent infections and psycho-social stimulation are important factors.
If children growth becomes stunned within their first 1000 days, then they are at risk of manifesting poor cognition and educational performance, low adult wages and productivity and even an increased risk of chronic diseases later in life.
Stunted growth is more common in developing countries, sadly, Pakistan falls within this category. Children with low resources are especially vulnerable due to a marked tendency towards poor feeding practices, insufficient feeding frequencies and delayed introduction to complementary foods.
In Pakistan, almost 80% of all children have diets with low food diversity and only 15% have diets that can be considered as acceptable. Nutrient rich food tends to be absent in the diet of most Pakistani people, also, poverty and poor access to health and nutrition services contribute to the creation of a unhealthy environment for the proper development of children.
Legumes, meat, fish and vitamin A-rich fruit and vegetables need to be incorporated into a child’s diet in order to avoid problems with its physical and mental development.
As we mentioned before, frequent infections can cause stunted growth. Not having access to clean sources of water and poor sanitation can cause precisely this. Gastrointestinal infections and/or syndromes can not only cause an effect when they are present and active, but also they can cause alterations in the microorganism present in our intestines, leading to changes in the way we process food and even producing injuries that may decrease our organs capacity of nutrient intake.
In many cases, the socioeconomic status of the child’s parent is important, because it influences all other factors related to nutrition and lifestyle. Children with parents with low education and/or unemployed are much more likely to experience stunted growth than children with educated and employed parents.
Frequency of stunted growth has been decreasing worldwide over the last few years, but at a much slower pace than expected. Families and individuals from developing countries and their rural areas need to be aware of the need to prevent this phenomenon due to its association to greater general mortality, low productivity and chronic diseases.