The war against malnutrition

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Food insecurity is one of the main causes of undernutrition in the developing world. We tend to assume that as a result of poverty many are left hungry, however suffering is often caused through malnutrition where many disorders can arise depending on what nutrients are under or over-abundant in the diet. In many cases across the globe, most being in children under five,  undernutrition is a result of insufficient calories, vitamins and protein with extreme undernourishment resulting in starvation.

Despite undernutrition causing almost half of deaths in children (3.1 children per year) and approximately 1 in 3 suffering from stunted growth, it has been agreed that this is one of the most neglected issues in global development.

Malnourished children in Niger, during the 2005 famine

A study published in BioMed Central’s open access journal International Archives of Medicine explored the link between dietary diversity and stunting. It was found that through a varied diet stunting is drastically reduced and  in particular animal source food provides enough vital nutrients to prevent stunting and from being underweight.

Not only is undernutrition one of the main underlying causes of mortality in the developing world, it also a predominant factor in morbidity. Malnourishment  increases the risk of infection, the severity of disease and the risk of premature death as the body is deficient of vital vitamins resulting in a decreased immune system.

In a paper published in BMC Medicine researchers looked into how with a nutritional intervention, the contraction of neglected tropical diseases (NTD) could be drastically decreased, which would not only help target public health, but it will also be a step towards controlling and preventing NTD.

In 2000 the Millennium Summit of the United Nations established eight goals that were to be achieved by 2015. The fourth goal, to reduce child mortality, aims to reduce the mortality rate from 1990 by two thirds. However in order to achieve this, malnutrition needs to be urgently addressed.

The issue of how to combat undernutrition was the subject of a roundtable event hosted by The Guardian, where key advocates discussed how the fourth goal can be reached. To read this article please visit the website.