A gust of wind sweeps into the schoolhouse. It comes in through the spaces between the dried grass, blowing a horizontal shaft across the bunks. For a second it fills the awkward silence as a 7-year-old girl struggles to perform a skill normally attained by the age of 4.
Progress on reducing stunting has been painfully slow, in part because the phenomenon does not rise to the level of an emergency.
Globally, the percentage of stunted children fell from 39.7 percent in 1990 to 26.7 percent in 2010, according to a report by Save the Children.
It’s Africa, though, that is paying the highest cost.
The continent has seen an overall reduction in stunting of just 2 percent in 20 years, and today more than 38 percent of children in Africa are stunted, the report says.
In fact, slow progress combined with population growth means that by 2025, 11.7 million more children will be stunted in Africa than today, the London-based charity found.
Two decades ago, Asia and Africa had nearly the same rate of stunting, but Africa has stagnated while Asia has leapt forward.
Analysts say there is a direct link to progress in agriculture. In Africa, the yields of staple cereals are one-third of those in Asia.
The parents of Achta and her bunkmates live off the land exactly as their forebears did. What’s changed is the sky above them.
The village of Louri is located on a ledge of sand a seven-hour drive from the nearest paved road. The sun is so bright, it bleaches the landscape white. Almost nothing takes root here.
For generations, the people of this bone-dry region lived off their herds. They drank the herds’ milk for protein and sold what was left to buy the many things that cannot be produced in this village, starting with vegetables.
When the rains were plentiful, the wild grasses around the village stayed green for months at a time.
Now they are only green for a brief flash, right after the short-lived rains.
For the rest of the year, the fields are the dull color of cream of wheat. The village’s animals are in sync with the land, giving birth and producing milk only when the grass is at its most nutritious.
Without milk, the villagers are forced to sell their animals, usually a calf or a foal, for cash to buy basic staples.View Entire Story
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