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Urban Children and Malnutrition

Author(s): Sheridan Bartlett and Cecilia Tacoli

Language: English

This evidence into action brief summarises the state of research on the topic of urban children and malnutrition, and proposes ideas for action.

Child malnutrition is the result of poor health, inadequate diets, suboptimal caregiving practices and unsanitary environments. While on average urban children are less likely to suffer from malnutrition than rural children, data shows that the opposite is true for urban children living in poverty. In high-density low-income neighbourhoods, inadequate housing and infrastructure, limited access to basic services and exposure to environmental hazards are major factors that, combined with low and irregular earnings, contribute to food insecurity and malnutrition. Practical action needs to consider and address these context-specific multiple challenges. NGOs can contribute to the successful design and delivery of interventions by supporting the capacity of grassroots organisations of the urban poor and local governments and in so doing ensure that initiatives have the long-term horizon essential to achieve change. This includes:

  • Collecting and analysing data reflecting household, settlement and city-level circumstances, along with local beliefs, to identify community needs and priorities and inform effective and preventative responses to malnutrition.
  • Ensuring that nutritional interventions are context-specific and include understanding and supporting the role of informal markets and vendors on which the urban poor rely.
  • Ensuring that urban caregivers’ time poverty is addressed, including through the provision of childcare facilities.
  • Integrating environmental health in any action plan, including water and sanitation, solid waste management and surface drainage, with special attention to emerging climate related environmental hazards.

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The Research Series: Cities for Children and Youth is published by the Global Alliance – Cities 4 Children. This series includes publications reflecting on a range of issues faced by urban children and youth and will shed light on promising initiatives and practices for sustained change. The series aims to inspire action, add to knowledge, improve program/project design and advocate for children’s and young people’s rights in the urban agenda. It is aimed at practitioners, policy makers, government officials, researchers and advocates for better cities for children and youth and will include a range of publications:

  • Evidence to action briefs: These are short research summaries about different topics that are important to address when thinking about child rights and the well-being of children and young people in urban contexts.
  • Case studies of success from different urban contexts to inspire change and action
  • Country/city reports about the situation of children in urban areas
  • Practical tools to work with children and young people to encourage their participation, better understand their needs and support their contributions in the urban context.
  • If you would like to contribute to this series please contact us here.