Stunted growth affects nearly 200 million children who don't have enough to eat, says a UNICEF report released Wednesday.
The agency said more than 90 percent of children with stunted growth are in Africa and Asia, the Associated Press reported. Last year, the rate of stunted growth in Africa was about 34 percent and 30 percent in Asia.
UNICEF also said that undernutrition is linked to more than a third of all deaths in children under 5. Without proper nutrition, children aren't able to fight off diseases and complications.
"Unless attention is paid to addressing the causes of child and maternal undernutrition today, the costs will be considerably higher tomorrow," UNICEF executive director Ann M. Veneman said in a news release, the AP reported.
UNICEF said wider use of programs to provide vitamin A supplementation and promote breast-feeding could cut the death rate in children by up to 15 percent.
"With more than 1 billion people suffering from malnutrition and hunger, international leadership and urgent action are needed," Veneman said.