News Release

Drought and childhood undernutrition

Peer-Reviewed Publication

Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences


image: The Effect of Local Rainfall Anomalies on Height and Regions with Increased Risk of Stunting Under Drought Conditions. A high resolution version of the above image can be downloaded at: view more 

Credit: Illustration courtesy of Lucy Reading-Ikkanda

Researchers report the effects of precipitation extremes, particularly drought, on child nutritional outcomes and map the areas likely to experience increasingly adverse child nutrition conditions as climate change continues and droughts intensify. Although climate change is recognized as a threat to food security, little is known about the effects of temperature and precipitation shocks on child nutrition, which can affect the health and prosperity of nations. Matthew W. Cooper and colleagues examined 580,000 geolocated observations of child nutrition from 53 countries since 1990 and correlated the data with extremes in high and low precipitation. While precipitation extremes are associated with poor childhood nutrition, as measured by observations of growth stunting, the authors identified factors that either mitigated or intensified child undernutrition during a drought. The factors involved both the adaptive capacity of food systems and their sensitivity to shocks, with nutritional diversity of agriculture and effective governance being protective factors. Considering such factors as well as geographic susceptibility to drought, the authors constructed a map of regions likely to experience future child growth stunting during drought conditions. According to the authors, the results identify risk factors for childhood undernutrition as well as steps that governments and nations can take to increase drought resilience.


Article #19-05228: "Mapping the effects of drought on child stunting," by Matthew W. Cooper et al.

MEDIA CONTACT: Julie Silva, University of Maryland, College Park, MD; tel: 201-780-9122; e-mail:

Disclaimer: AAAS and EurekAlert! are not responsible for the accuracy of news releases posted to EurekAlert! by contributing institutions or for the use of any information through the EurekAlert system.