Malnutrition is linked to over 1/3 of childhood deaths around the world, yet it is many times not listed as the direct cause of death, because other diseases affect the children because of their malnourishment (“Malnutrition”). According to the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, malnutrition is the underlying cause of 2.6 million childhood deaths every single year (“Fast Facts About Malnutrition”). Malnutrition occurs when children have a lack of access to highly nutritious foods. This can be due to low resources in their area, rising food prices, droughts and floods, and a slough of other factors.
When a child is malnourished, they have a lack of essential nutrients that can be detrimental to their health and well-being. For example, iron deficiency causes anemia, which can cause brain damage and a decrease in mental functioning. In addition, vitamin A deficiency can cause early childhood blindness and increases the severity of acquired infections. Also, a zinc deficiency can cause a decline in growth during extremely formative years (“Fast Facts About Malnutrition”). These are just a few examples of the many nutrient deficiencies that can cause serious health problems, and even death, in children.
According to the World Food Programme, “A malnourished person finds that their body has difficulty doing normal things such as growing and resisting disease” (“What Is Malnutrition?”). Physical activity is decreased, mental abilities become limited, and children become more susceptible to acquiring diseases.
The first two years of a child’s life are critical when it comes to preventing childhood malnutrition (“What Is Malnutrition?”). The World Health Organization points out that Ready-to-use Therapeutic Food has revolutionized the treatment of severe malnutrition, as these products are safe to use at home and ensure rapid weight gain in children.
Many organizations focus on advocating for community-based programs that help to prevent and treat malnutrition. As in most cases of global health issues, education is key to preventing the cause of malnutrition. Personally, I feel as though there should be government involvement in countries that have high rates of malnutrition. There should be programs that combine legislation and charitable groups to focus on making food and treatments available to even the most impoverished individuals. Foods should be fortified, accessible, and nutritional supplements should be provided as needed to individuals.
Photos by Graham Crouch
“Fast Facts About Malnutrition.” GAIN. Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, 05 Nov. 2012. Web. 28 Mar. 2016.
“Malnutrition.” Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health. World Health Organization, 2016. Web. 28 Mar. 2016.
“What Is Malnutrition?” World Food Programme. N.p., 2016. Web. 28 Mar. 2016.