Stop stunting: situation and way forward to improve maternal, child and adolescent nutrition in Afghanistan

Ariel Higgins-Steele, Piyali Mustaphi, Sherin Varkey, Humayoun Ludin,
Najibullah Safi and Zulfiqar A. Bhutta

While Afghanistan has made progress in improving the nutritional status of children and women, rates of under-nutrition, stunting and wasting remain among the highest in the world, requiring attention to address immediate and underlying causes (Varkey et al. 2015). Given potential human, societal and economic gains from investment in nutrition (Branca et al. 2015) reducing the dual burden of acute and chronic undernutrition must figure among social sector and development priorities for the country.

Comparisons of two national nutrition surveys in Afghanistan (2004 and 2013) show gradual improvements in the nutritional status of women and children, and yet, the rates of undernutrition continue to be too high. According to a National Nutrition Survey in Afghanistan in 2004, the prevalence of chronic malnutrition (stunted linear growth or low height-for-age) among children aged 6 to 59months was 60.5%; in the same age group, the prevalence of acute malnutrition (wasting) was 8.7% (Afghanistan Ministry of Public

Health, National Nutrition Survey 2004). The 2013 survey showed malnutrition rates among children 0 to 59months of age with stunting at 40.9%, severe stunting at 20.9%, and moderate stunting at 20% Afghanistan Ministry of Public Health, National Nutrition Survey 2013).

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