Malnourished children struggle to read and write simple sentences and nearly 20 percent of them are less literate than those who have a nutritious diet, a report said Tuesday.
A report by NGO Save the Children, showcases how children's cognitive development is affected when they miss out on nutritious food.
"Missing a nutritious diet can severely impair a child's ability to read and write a simple sentence and answer basic maths questions correctly, regardless of the amount and quality of schooling they have received," said 'The Food For Thought' report.
The report indicates that an eight-year-old malnourished student is more likely to make an error than the well-fed peers while reading a simple sentence such as: "The sun is hot" or "I like dogs".
"Stunted children are 12.5 percent more likely to make a mistake writing a simple sentence and seven percent are worse in answering simple maths questions like 'What is eight minus three?' than they would have been expected to do had they not been stunted," the report said.
The NGO stated that the findings were based on research on thousands of children in Ethiopia, India, Peru and Vietnam. It comes ahead of this year's G8 meeting where leaders from both developing and donor countries must commit to more leadership and funding to transform the lives of millions of children affected by malnutrition.
"Poor nutrition is a huge barrier to tackling child mortality. It is also responsible for poor learning levels among under nourished children," said Thomas Chandy, chief executive, Save the Children.
The findings also indicate the huge economic cost of chronic malnutrition.
"The report also highlights that malnourished children could earn 20 percent less in adulthood," Chandy added.
Despite being one of the most cost-effective forms of development assistance, spending on nutrition programmes currently amounts to just 0.3 percent of global development spending. Any investment now, the report says, would be a down payment on future prosperity.
As per Save the Children, every year nearly 1.69 million children under five years of age die in India. Of these deaths, more than half take place in the first month of a child's life. Malnutrition is a major underlying cause and contributes to a third of these deaths