Hidden Malnutrition Crisis Could Put Almost Half a Billion Children at Risk


15 February 2012 - New global research by Save the Children has revealed that, after a year of soaring food prices, nearly half of surveyed families say they have been forced to cut back on food. Nearly a third of parents surveyed said their children complained that they didn't have enough food to eat.

The poll, conducted in India, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru and Bangladesh—the five countries where more than half of the world's malnourished children live—also revealed one in six surveyed had asked their children to skip school to work to help pay for the families’ food.

The survey contains a snap-shot of the hardship that families are facing in countries already struggling with high rates of malnutrition. In its new report “A Life Free from Hunger: Tackling Child Malnutrition,” the charity says that rising food prices and malnutrition are putting future global progress on child mortality at risk.

Even before the food price spikes, many of the poorest children were already surviving on a sparse, low-cost diet dominated by a basic staple such as white rice, maize or cassava, which has very low nutritional value.

Save the Children warns that if no concerted action is taken, half a billion children will be physically and mentally stunted over the next 15 years, their lives blighted by malnutrition.

The chief executive of Save the Children, Jasmine Whitbread, said, “Imagine you were a parent who couldn't give your children the kinds of food that will help them grow and thrive. In recent years the world has made dramatic progress in reducing child deaths, down from 12 to 7.6 million, but this momentum will stall if we fail to tackle malnutrition.

“Malnutrition can damage children permanently, impairing their brains and bodies. But with focused action, we can put in place solutions which will end this scandal.”

Although malnutrition is the underlying cause of a third of child deaths, it has not received the same high-profile campaigning and investment as other causes of child mortality like HIV/Aids or malaria. This has meant that while the child mortality rate from malaria has been cut by a third since 2000, child malnutrition rates in Africa have decreased by less than 0.3%.

Yet the costs—both in human and economic terms—are huge. A child who is chronically malnourished, can have an IQ of up to 15 points less than a child properly nourished, whilst Save the Children estimates the cost to the global economy of child malnutrition in 2010 alone was nearly $121 billion.

Save the Children says a package of basic measures—including fortifying basic foods with essential minerals or vitamins, encouraging exclusive breastfeeding for children up to 6 months of age, and better investment in cash transfers with payments targeted at the poorest families—can turn the tide on malnutrition and reduce vulnerability to food price spikes.

Save the Children is calling on all world leaders to take a few simple measures to tackle malnutrition:

  • to make the crisis visible by setting global and national targets to reduce stunting
  • to increase funding for direct nutrition interventions, such as breastfeeding and fortification, that could save millions of lives.
  • to invest in effective social protection policies that reach vulnerable families and support small-scale farmers by ensuring that their agricultural policies aim to improve nutrition.
  • to use G8/G20 meetings to galvanise political leadership on hunger and build plan of concrete action to tackle malnutrition

Jasmine Whitbread said, “Every hour of every day, 300 children die because of malnutrition, often simply because they don’t have access to the basic, nutritious foods that we take for granted in rich countries. By acting on hunger and malnutrition, world leaders have the chance to change this for millions of children across the world.”

Notes to editors:

Save the Children’s survey results showed that: in India, one of the world’s biggest boom economies and where half of all children are stunted, more than a quarter of parents surveyed said their children went without food sometimes or often; in Nigeria, nearly a third of parents had pulled their children out of school so they could work to help pay for food; in Bangladesh, 87% of those surveyed said the price of food had been their most pressing concern in 2010.

The survey was carried out by Globescan, international research consultancy, in December 2011 and January 2012 in Pakistan, Bangladesh, India, Peru and Nigeria. These countries are the home of half of the world’s 170m million stunted children. Proportion of stunted children in countries surveyed: Pakistan 42% (10.1M) of children stunted,

Bangladesh 43% (7M), India 48% (60.5M), Nigeria 43% (10.9M), Peru 24% (712,560)[7] .

A randomly-selected sample of over 1000 adults over 18 years was interviewed in each country spanning both urban and rural areas. The data were weighted by age and gender to match the national population profile. The results are nationally representative. In all but Bangladesh, the interviews were carried out face to face. In Bangladesh, where the penetration rate of mobile phone among adults is between 80 and 90%, the interviews were carried out through random direct dialing.


Published in Poverty

TORONTO – As the debate over top earners’ pay continues, public dissatisfaction with income inequality remains high, according to new GlobeScan data from a 23-nation study released today, with fewer than half in most countries polled believing most rich people in their country deserve their wealth.

GlobeScan polled more than 12,000 adults across 23 countries about their attitudes towards economic inequality as part of the annual GlobeScan Radar global public opinion study on business and its role in society. In 12 countries over 50% of people said they did not believe that the rich deserved their wealth.

Seventeen of the countries were also asked for their attitudes towards economic inequality in a comparable 2008 study. This year’s findings reveal that only 43 per cent of people across the 17 countries surveyed in both years feel that most rich people in their country deserve their wealth. Almost half of those polled in both years (48%) disagree that rich people merit their wealth—a figure that has remained stable since 2008 (49%).

The figures show that public concern with the way wealth is divided remains almost as high as it was in the year of the Lehman Brothers collapse, when corporate practices—in the banking sector particularly—started coming in for intense scrutiny. They come in a week when new French president François Hollande has unveiled a new 75% tax on incomes above €1m, and when a prominent high earner, Barclays’ Bob Diamond, whose remuneration has been strongly criticised in the past, has been forced to resign.

In only six countries surveyed in 2012 did more than half feel that rich people deserve their wealth. The most likely nations in 2012 to feel that rich people in their country deserved their wealth were Australia (61% up from 53% 2008), Canada (58%, down from 61% in 2008) and the USA (up one point from 2008 at 58%). They contrast with much of GlobeScan’s recent polling, where Anglo-Saxon nations were among the developed countries where trust in business more generally was lower than in the developing world.

Attitudes in Europe were mixed, with 45% of Britons feeling the rich deserve their wealth, 31% of French and 35% of Germans.

Greece emerged as the country least likely to feel that its rich people deserved their wealth (with only nine per cent agreeing), but Russia (16%, down from 17%) Turkey (20%, up from 14%) and Spain (20%, up from 18%) were also profoundly sceptical.

Sam Mountford, GlobeScan’s Director of Global Insights, comments: “These figures show that citizens around the world remain far from convinced that the way wealth is divided in their country is fair. This underlying sense of economic inequity may well present a challenge to governments planning to cut and deregulate their way back to prosperity.”

A total of 12,234 adults were surveyed across Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, Chile, China, France, Germany, Ghana, Greece, India, Indonesia, Kenya, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, Peru, Russia, South Korea, Spain, Turkey, the UK, and the USA between December 6 2011 and February 17 2012. Interviews were conducted by GlobeScan and its global partners face to face or by telephone. In six of the 23 countries, the sample was limited to major urban areas. The margin of error per country ranges from +/- 2.9 to 4.9 per cent, 19 times out of 20.

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Radar Q7atg WealthAttitude

Published in Global Public Opinion

financial times

Published by The Financial Times on October 17th, 2012, this letter was written by GlobeScan Foundation President, Doug Miller, in response to an October 11th, 2012 article entitled "Companies are facing a new type of opponent


Sir Michael Skapinker’s article “Companies are facing a new type of opponent” (October 11) builds very well on Simon Zadek’s keen observation that conflict today stems increasingly from the gulf between rich and poor within countries.

Mr. Skapinker goes on to argue quite effectively that this has created a new opposing force to free enterprise, as demonstrated by seemingly random and unexpected uprisings at mines in South Africa, at Foxconn in China and during last year’s riots in Britain (not to mention Occupy Wall Street).

This phenomenon is underscored by the poll we conducted for the BBC World Service earlier this year, which revealed that majorities in 18 of 24 countries see the economic system in their country as unfair in distributing economic benefits and costs. The fact that companies are increasingly being targeted by these “new opponents” is understandable given another finding from the same poll – that free enterprise as currently practised is progressively losing its appeal. While one in two citizens across the 24 countries believes flaws in the free market system can be fixed through reform and regulation, fully one in four now sees it as fatally flawed and that a new economic system is needed.

We would argue that the best defence to all this is a good offence. Big companies first need to manage their reputation proactively among their stakeholders to avoid being targeted; and second, they need to rediscover an authentic societal purpose at the heart of their enterprise from which to demonstrate the efficacy of free enterprise in meeting the real needs of the majority of people.

I used to joke in client presentations that those chief financial officers and other executives who continued to oppose corporate social responsibility initiatives by their companies would one day awake to discover that CSR had been replaced by something they would like even less. Well, this is it.

Read this letter on The Financial Times (Subscription Required)

Published in Global Public Opinion

TORONTO - A recent GlobeScan study of Nigerian women living in urban slums has highlighted the risks they run to their health and personal safety by using informal and outside toilet facilities – and the challenges associated with lack of adequate infrastructure in many developing nations.

GlobeScan was engaged by WaterAid to conduct a poll of women living in informal settlements in and around Lagos relating to access to sanitation and levels of concern around violence and intimidation towards women in this context. The research was intended to inform WaterAid’s media outreach and campaigning work around World Toilet Day 2012.

We found that, while informal and outside facilities were the most commonly used by women in informal settlements, these were also the kind of facilities where they felt the least safe (67% report feeling unsafe) and 60% reported the public toilets they use are generally unhygienic.

Our study found that many women felt compelled to use informal our outside facilities because of the cost of accessing public toilets. According to GlobeScan’s Radar tracking of public opinion across 20+ countries, unemployment and poverty are dominant concerns in Nigeria. This is borne out by the high proportion of women (67%) who report that the cost of using public facilities is a problem for them.

There is an extremely high demand among the women we surveyed (89%) who consider greater government investment in sanitation, even in relation to other problems such as education and transport infrastructure, to be “very important”.

Asked to give examples of harassment they had suffered, most examples given cited instances of intimidation or verbal harassment, which tended to relate to the tensions of close quarter living and sharing of facilities,

“People will insult you as if you are not human beings and neighbours”

Or male harassment and invasion of privacy,

“My neighbour or people passing will start staring at you and some will stare like they want to come and rape you.” 

WA2012 Q1

WA2012 Q6

About the Study

The poll was conducted between the 18th and 22nd of October 2012, using purposive sampling among a sample of 500 female adults (18-54). Face-to-face interviews were conducted in the urban slums of Ajegunle, Ijora Badia, Oko Agbon, and Otto-Oyingbo, in and around Lagos. In order to ensure the respondents felt at ease, given the sensitivity of the subject-matter, the interviewers ensured them of the confidentiality of their responses and the protection of their anonymity. Respondents were also provided with the details of local community organisations with whom they could, if needed, discuss their experiences further and seek support.

About WaterAid

WaterAid are an international non-governmental organisation. Their mission is to improve access to safe water, hygiene and sanitation in the world's poorest communities. WaterAid also work locally and internationally to change policy and practice and ensure that water, hygiene and sanitation's vital role in reducing poverty is recognised. For more information, visit 

Published in Poverty

LONDON - As governments prepare to meet in Mexico for the Cancun climate summit, a new global poll reveals that concern about climate change has fallen sharply across OECD countries in the past year, but that citizens in some major developing nations have become more concerned about the issue.

The 26-country poll, conducted by GlobeScan, asked a total of 13,389 people to rate the seriousness of a range of environmental problems including climate change.

Results from the 14 countries where GlobeScan has tracked opinion regularly since 1998 reveal that concern has fallen away particularly sharply on climate change. The proportion of people rating climate change as a “very serious” problem fell from 61 percent to 53 percent this year, after many years of increasing concern.

While concern about climate change fell in many industrialised nations including the UK (down from 59 percent to 43 percent “very serious”), the USA (down from 45 percent to 41 percent), and Germany (down from 61 percent to 47 percent), the findings also show that concern has risen in the last year in two major emerging economies: India (up from 45 percent to 53 percent) and Brazil (up from 86 percent to 92 percent).

Other findings from the poll show that the proportion of people across tracking countries who believe that “the dangers of climate change are exaggerated” has risen from 42 percent in 2008 to 48 percent this year:

GlobeScan Senior Vice-President Chris Coulter commented: “We are witnessing a North-South divide around climate change where concern is stable or growing in emerging economies while concern has declined in Europe and North America. The combined effects of economic recession, the confusing results from last year’s Copenhagen climate conference, and the controversy surrounding climate science seem to have shaken the belief of people in industrialized countries that climate change is an urgent problem that needs to be addressed, and makes it even less likely that governments will feel the pressure to reach a strong agreement in Cancun. We may, however, see stronger than expected leadership from key developing countries in response to the significant levels of concern expressed by their populations.”

Published in Global Public Opinion

The ongoing economic crisis appears to be having a negative influence on the global public’s judgment of progress on economic wellbeing, according to our latest global polling.

When asked to evaluate the state of progress on societal challenges over the last twenty years, people across 22 countries were more likely to feel that environmental protection and creating healthier and more equitable societies had got better over that period than felt the same way about improved economic wellbeing, which nearly as many felt had got worse (36%) as felt it had improved (39%).

These findings suggest that current socioeconomic difficulties may be making it difficult for citizens to perceive the widespread increase in living standards over the last two decades, which has been particularly marked in middle-income countries such as Brazil, India and China. Not surprisingly, these are the three countries most likely to perceive an improvement in economic wellbeing over the period, while troubled European and North American economies, particularly Greece, are the least likely.

The findings are drawn from The Regeneration Roadmap, GlobeScan and SustainAbility’s collaboration aimed at generating a roadmap for sustainable development over the coming years.

Published in Global Public Opinion

Even though many commentators have suggested that China’s slowing economy poses risks to its political and social stability, GlobeScan’s polling shows that the Chinese public retains a much higher level of trust in their national government than they do in other social institutions.

The degree to which the public trusts different institutions in China may reflect the country’s insular, government-dominated past. China’s sustained economic success over the past two decades is probably a major factor in the public’s continuing faith in the government. The scientists who drive China’s prestige projects, such as its space programme, are also highly trusted. Meanwhile, religious groups and foreign corporations are much less widely trusted.

The government is also the actor with the greatest perceived impact—unsurprising for a body that has driven China’s breakneck change and continues to manage society tightly. China’s state corporations are also considered to be highly impactful. The press is viewed as powerful, but fewer express trust in it to act in society’s best interests.

Large majorities of Chinese agree that there has been progress in the past twenty years socially, economically, and even environmentally, despite rising pollution and controversies over projects such as the Three Gorges Dam. Equally large majorities look forward to similar progress over the next twenty years.

And while in recent months China’s government has been accused of stoking nationalism to distract from its own failings, these figures demonstrate how much loyalty it still commands, and that it retains an unchallenged position at the centre of Chinese society. A limited political transition may be imminent, but those expecting more fundamental change in the world’s second-largest economy may have longer to wait. The government’s status as the primary stakeholder for anyone looking to do business in China seems secure.

Published in Global Public Opinion

In celebration of today's World Humanitarian Day, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon asked us to reflect on the following question: What do you think the world needs more of?

Many people hoped that the end of the Cold War in 1991 would bring about global peace and prosperity. Yet the world does not look like a better and safer place today than it did twenty years ago.

Looking at current events, naming one thing that the world needs more of appears easier said than done. Every day, the media reports on crimes against humanity and human rights violations committed because of political, religious, racial or gender affiliations. We hear of economic and financial downturns and people living below the poverty line. We hear of deaths resulting from starvation, lack of drinkable water or proper sanitation. We hear of pandemics, resource depletion, floods and droughts.

In that context, what does the world need more of?

In our most recent wave of societal research via GlobeScan Radar, we asked respondents across 24 countries to assess how serious they thought given challenges were for the world. At the top of the list were crime and violence, with 65 percent of the global public considering them as very serious challenges. These were closely followed by unemployment (60%), rising cost of food / energy (59%), poverty / homelessness (58%) and economic problems (55%) – see chart below.

The majority of these challenges are interrelated. Economic problems impact on job security and inflation, all of which affect poverty and homelessness.

These results highlight a growing feeling of insecurity and vulnerability amongst the general public, whether physical or material. They also pinpoint a general worry about the uncertainty of the future.

Interestingly, of all the challenges that the public was asked about, respect for human rights and inequality (economic and gender) are amongst the lowest percentages of very serious responses. It appears that what respondents consider as the biggest challenges to society are the problems that most often directly affect themselves or the people around them.

Likewise, when asked what they considered to be the most important problem facing their country today (see chart below), 17 percent of respondents said that unemployment is the most important issue, followed by economic problems (16%). Although poverty and crime rank comparatively lower, with only six and five percent of respondents respectively assessing them as the most important problem that their nation has to tackle, they remain in the top five most mentioned issues.

Similarly to human rights and discrimination at the global level it seems that, while remaining perceived as important problems, poverty and crime are trumped at the national level by what most impacts the everyday lives of respondents.

Politics, environment and security also rank in the top five first mentions, further highlighting the diversity of the problems that nations are facing and simultaneously the plethora of needs that people have.

Even when looking only at the most mentioned important societal challenges and national concerns, it is clear that there are many issues that global citizens perceive as threatening or lacking. People need physical security. They need job security. They need economic security, and they need food and water security

Therefore, to give just one answer to Ban Ki-moon’s question, I would say that what the world needs more of can be summarized in two words: human security. That is, the ability for people to live their lives free from fear and secure in the knowledge that their basic needs are being met.

Published in Global Public Opinion

Today, companies find themselves navigating an increasingly challenging world that has been described as volatile, uncertain, complex, and ambiguous. In this challenging context, it is becoming critical for organizations to correctly understand the sentiments of the public – sentiments that can be both ambiguous and easily misread. Our GlobeScan Radar program of evidence and counsel draws upon our database of over fifteen years of tracking of global (20-30 countries) citizen perceptions around business and its role in society.

GlobeScan Radar helps equip corporate leaders to better understand the social context in which companies operate across geographies, for example see GlobeScan's Sector Intelligence Reports. The infographic below provides some examples of the insight that GlobeScan Radar provides. Our latest results show perceived vulnerability around issues of crime and violence, as well as economic issues like unemployment, high cost of food and energy, and poverty. Majorities in a number of countries perceive various environmental issues as “very serious,” although the perceived seriousness of climate change along with other issues is in decline. High environmental concern also translates to environmentally conscious consumerism in many key markets.

GlobeScan believes in the value of knowledge sharing, so we encourage you to share these findings with your colleagues, let us know your thoughts in the comments below, or contact us with any questions you may have. 

Published in Global Public Opinion