‘Zero-food children’ common around the world

Two year old child walking alone.

February 15, 2024—The prevalence of “zero-food children”—children between 6 and 23 months old who did not consume any milk, formula, or food in the last 24 hours—is as high as 21% in some countries, according to a new study led by Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.

The study was published on February 12 in JAMA Network Open. Its authors included S.V. Subramanian, professor of population health and geography, and Rockli Kim, visiting scientist in the Harvard Center for Population and Development Studies.

To investigate the number of zero-food children around the world, the researchers used nationally representative data collected between 2010 and 2022 across 92 low- and middle-income countries. The study population was made up of 276,379 babies and toddlers whose caregivers had reported on their feeding.

The study found that zero-food children made up 10.4% of the study population. The prevalence of zero-food children ranged widely between countries. In Costa Rica, the prevalence was 0.1%; in Guinea, 21.8%. In India—which accounted for nearly half of the study’s zero-food children—the prevalence was 19.3%.

According to the authors, the findings provide policymakers new insights into the urgent challenge of food insecurity, and can be used to implement “evidence-based policies and programs…to reduce the prevalence of zero-food children and ensure a healthier and more prosperous future for the next generation.”

Read the study: Prevalence of Children Aged 6 to 23 Months Who Did Not Consume Animal Milk, Formula, or Solid or Semisolid Food During the Last 24 Hours Across Low- and Middle-Income Countries

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