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Healthy Pregnancy and Birth Outcomes
Pregnancy and childbirth are risky times for both mothers and babies, and the health of mother and baby are inextricably linked. Conditions that develop during pregnancy can be tied to complications such as pre-term birth and intrauterine growth restriction. Millions of mothers and babies die (or are stillborn) every year, the vast majority in low- and middle-income coutnries. The tens of millions of babies born too soon or too small can suffer lifelong consequences for their cognitive and physical development.
Children are considered stunted when they are short for their age by a specific amount (two standard deviations below the global average height). But height per se is not the key issue. Rather, stunting is a proxy for overall physical and cognitive underdevelopment. More than 150 million children are stunted.
Children are wasted when their weight is a certain amount lower than it should be based on their height (two standard deviations below the global average). Wasting is associated with physical and cognitive underdevelopment and especially with a much higher than normal risk of death. 50 million children are wasted at any given time.
The best estimate is that 250 million children under age 5 years are not reaching their neurocognitive potential. These children go on to be less successful in school, less productive at work, and less fulfilled in their personal lives. The causes of this impairment are poorly understood.