East Timor has the highest percentage of stunted children of any nation in the world, according to a new report from WaterAid.

The report, Caught Short, found that 58 per cent of children under the age of five in East Timor suffer from stunting, a condition caused by malnutrition during the first two year's of a child's life which can affect a child's physical well-being as well as their cognitive and emotional development.

The report shows that globally 159 million - or one in four - children under the age of five are stunted. After East Timor, the nations with the highest percentage of stunting among children aged under five are Burundi (58 per cent), Eritrea and Papua New Guinea (50 per cent), and Madagascar (49 per cent). India tops the list for the highest number of stunted children at 48 million followed by Nigeria (10.3 million) and Pakistan (9.9 million).

Paul Nichols, chief executive of WaterAid Australia, said that even if children have plenty of good food, they can still suffer from malnutrition thanks to unsanitary toilet conditions. He noted that as many as 59 per cent of East Timor's population does not have access to a clean, private toilet "meaning many have no choice but to go in the open, which spreads deadly diseases and makes children more susceptible to diarrhoea and other infections".

"So it's no surprise that so many children in Timor-Leste [East Timor] suffer from stunted growth," he said.

Mr Nichols said was "unacceptable" that 25 per cent of children aged under five suffer from stunting and said governments needed to make safe water, decent toilets and clean hands "a priority in efforts to end malnutrition".

Other figures contained in the report show some 650 million people globally still do not have access to clean water and more than 2.3 billion do not have access to basic sanitation. About 315,000 children aged under five die each year of diarrhoeal diseases as a result and half of all malnutrition cases are linked to infections like chronic diarrhoea caused by a lack of clean water, good sanitation and good hygiene.

World leaders and Olympians will come together to address the issue of malnutrition at a special Nutrition for Growth summit on 4th August, just prior to the opening ceremony at the Rio Olympics.

Follow this link - ’Caught Short’ - to download the report.