SOAS University of London

SOAS collaborates on major international research hub to tackle child stunting

28 February 2019

Bhavani Shankar, Professor of International Food, Agriculture and Health at SOAS University of London in the Centre for Development, Environment and Policy (CeDEP) will be contributing to the work of a major new international research hub that aims to further our understanding of the causes of stunting.

Up to one million children could benefit from the 19.76m research hub led by the London International Development Centre (LIDC) and the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine (LSHTM).

Professor Shankar will play a leading role in a part of the hub that focuses on how food systems can be shaped contribute to alleviating stunting. Poor diets lacking in essential vitamins and micronutrients and unsafe foods that cause infection and loss of nutrition are important drivers of stunting. The Food Systems component of the Hub will aim to understand the environment in which food consumption takes place in study communities, key foods in local diets that can contribute to stunting alleviation, and how local markets that deliver these key foods can be strengthened.

Stunting impacts 155-165.8 million children worldwide. In 2012, the World Health Assembly recognised that child stunting was ‘one of the most significant impediments to human development’ and resolved to reduce the number of children under five who are stunted by 40% by 2025.

The ‘UKRI GCRF Action against Stunting Hub’ is an interdisciplinary team comprising researchers from 18 institutions. Running for a five-year period from March 2019 –March 2024, the Hub aims to transform current research on child undernutrition or stunting. The team proposes to change the focus of investigation of child undernutrition from individual components of the problem to the ‘whole child’, understanding the biological, social, environmental and behavioural context in which stunting occurs.

The UKRI GCRF ‘Action against Stunting Hub’ will aim to reduce child stunting by up to 10% across communities in India, Indonesia and Senegal. It is funded by UK Research and Innovation (UKRI) through the Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), which is a key component in delivering the UK AID strategy.