JOHANNESBURG, May 2 (Xinhua) -- The United Nations (UN) on Tuesday painted a dismal picture of under nutrition for children under five in sub-Saharan Africa, saying little progress had been made in the past 15 years to reduce the problem.
"Given this lack of progress and due to population growth, the total number of underweight children actually increased in sub-Saharan Africa," the UN Children's Fund (UNICEF) said in its latest Progress of Children report, released globally on Tuesday.
Under nutrition, outcome of hunger and repeated infectious diseases that cause underweight, stunting and wasting, plagued 146 million children under five in developing world, with sub-Saharan Africa as the second worst-hit region only after South Asia, said the report seen here.
In sub-Saharan Africa, 28 percent of children are underweight, and the region has the next highest proportion of stunted children after South Asia.
Nutrition determines how well societies progress and whether children will survive their early years and fully develop their physical and intellectual potential.
Nutrition is directly associated with the UN's first millennium development goal (MDG), which calls on governments to eradicate extreme poverty and hunger.
However, UNICEF said no progress was made over the 1990-2004 period in reducing the number of underweight children in sub-Saharan Africa, particularly in eastern and southern Africa.
"The Eastern/Southern Africa region as a whole, far from making progress towards the MDG target of reducing hunger by half,has shown no improvement at all since 1990 in the proportion of children who are underweight," said the report.
This is due mainly to declines in agricultural productivity, recurring food crisis associated with drought and conflict, and increasing levels of poverty, Saba Mebrahtu, UNICEF's senior regional nutrition advisor, said at a press conference in Johannesburg.
HIV/AIDS, especially when coupled with drought-related food crisis, has posed serious challenges to nutrition development in the southern African countries, she said.
Of the 17 countries monitored in the region, only Botswana is on track to reach the MDG target, and nine countries are either showing no change or getting worse, she said. Enditem