Malnutrition: 165 million kids affected worldwide, 3.1 million die each year

Malnutrition: 165 million kids affected worldwide, 3.1 million die each year

The world’s political commitment since 2008 to improve nutrition has only made a modest impact, and remains a massive unfinished agenda, as 165 million children are still trapped in this scourge and 3.1 million kids under five die every year.

This is according to a series of reports released last week by the Lancet.

These 165 million children with stunted growth have compromised cognitive development and physical capabilities, making yet another generation less productive than they would otherwise be, one of the reports said.

The Medline Plus Medical Encyclopedia defines malnutrition as a lack of some or all nutritional elements necessary for human health. This technically means that one can eat a lot but still does not eat well.

The most dangerous form of manutrition is protein-energy malnutrition (PEM). This is described by World Hunger as the lack of enough protein – from meat and other sources – and food that provides energy (measured in calories) which all of the basic food groups provide.

This is the kind of malnutrition the 165 million children across the globe are suffering from. Malnutrition, a technical term used by medicine to categorise hunger.

At least 925 million were thought to be suffering from hunger in 2010, and close to 280 million of them in Africa, according to the UN agency for food and agriculture, FAO.

The Lancet said malnutrition deaths could be significantly reduced by as much as 900 000 per year if the 10 proven nutrition-specific interventions could be applied.

“Some, but not all, programmes in agriculture, cash transfers, early child development and schooling have shown an improvement innutrition and development,” one series of the reports said.

“Nutrition-sensitive programmes with the most positive effect on nutrition had nutrition goals and actions, reached mothers and children early and for longer durations and targeted the poorest and most undernourished.

“Investments need to be directed not only to interventions but also to the environments that
enable them. ”

The Lancet said enabling a favourable environment for nutrition required strategic investment in the following:
•    Building commitment, capacity and leadership
•    Timely data on the problem, its causes and programme performance
•    Accountability mechanisms, resource mobilisation and strengthening institutions for sustainable implementation

Good nutrition is a fundamental driver of a wide range of development goals, the Lancet said.
“Countries will not be able to break out of poverty and sustain economic advances if so much of their population fails to get the nutrition needed for a healthy and productive life, the reports said.

Undernutrition reduces a nation’s economic advancement by at least 8% (direct productivity losses, losses via poorer cognition, and losses via reduced schooling, it concluded.

Photo by WFP.

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