Child malnutrition is a serious illness caused by low food intake and lack of nutrients in the body. Chronic malnutrition and poor diet are consequences of extreme poverty. According to data collected by the World Health Organization (WHO), between three and five million babies and children under 5 years of age die each year due to malnutrition.
Below you have an index with all the points that we are going to deal with in this article.
Symptoms and pathophysiology
This disease affects the physical development of children, who suffer alterations in the composition of their body caused by the extreme thinness.
In addition, it brings with it serious infectious diseases derived from the intake of spoiled food and contaminated water, among others.
This disables at the same time the correct mental and cognitive development of children, a consequence that is reinforced by the inaccessibility of an education in conditions suffered in the continent.
Child malnutrition can have consequences at various levels that accompany the affected person throughout his life. During childhood, children suffering from acute child malnutrition may manifest the following pathophysiology:
- Decreased brain tissue growth
- Decreased heart muscle mass
- Decrease in oxygen consumption
- Weight reduction renal plasma flow
As for mental problems, they can suffer mental retardation, motor disorders, hypothermine, heart murmur, acute diarrhea, fatty liver, hypothyroidism, paleness, etc. In summary, malnutrition generates irreversible problems not only physically, but also socially and even educationally.
The Spanish Association of Pediatrics (AEPED) defines growth retardation or excessiveness as that situation in which the child stops progressing in his development with respect to the expected growth for his age.
This stunting is the origin of what we call child malnutrition, which results in alterations in body size and composition. This is due to a deficit of nutritional contribution that usually causes the weight of these children to be below the 5th percentile.
Although there are three categories for this disorder, the imbalance between the needs and nutritional contributions of these children is a common factor in the vast majority of cases of child malnutrition.
It is during the period from pregnancy until the child reaches 3 months of life when the development of the nervous system takes place.
From that moment the first intellectual capacities in the human being are manifested, for which it is essential to have a good diet. If this development does not take place in this period, it will hardly be achieved in the future.
Causes of malnutrition
The home where the human being grows in its first months of life, as well as the culture that surrounds it, are determining factors when it comes to promoting the correct development of the organism at all levels.
When these conditions are negative, as in the more rural areas of the African continent, they become the leading cause of infant mortality due to malnutrition.
These precarious conditions make not only that the food is of poor quality, but that it cannot be distributed equitably. In this sense, although the extreme poverty It is undoubtedly the main cause of child malnutrition, there are three other risk factors:
- Low agricultural production
- Internal wars that are lived among African villages
- Dissemination of HIV-AIDS
All this means that the inhabitants of these towns do not have access to the basic needs that every human being needs. The international community blames the governments of these countries for the lack of responsibility and willingness to try to alleviate these living conditions.
The main problems that plague these African countries are the political instability of the continent and the spread of AIDS. This has led to the emergence of more and more armed conflicts, so that the population's quality of life is well below the level considered normal.
The work of NGOs
NGOs working on this cause agree that the real problem is not the lack of food, but their unfair distribution. Experts say the reality is that there is enough food in the world to feed a third more of the world's existing population.
At present, there is a large number of NGOs that provide assistance to this cause, such as Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF, Alliance for Child Nutrition (Prisma ONG) … All of them contribute their grain of sand to help these children so they can feed and grow in a better environment.
The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) has created the World Food Program (WFP). Food is distributed through WFP to support long-term refugees, displaced persons and development projects.
Thanks to WFP, food is distributed to areas affected by malnutrition and extreme poverty. Since 1996, WFP is managed by a Board of Directors in which 36 Member States participate. Currently, less than 20% of WFP's programs are destined for development projects.
The World Food Program is also dedicated to providing logistical support so that the necessary food can reach those who need it most, regardless of geographic location. For WFP, hunger and child malnutrition should be priority issues on the international agenda.
One of the main considerations when establishing strategies to combat malnutrition in Africa is to establish a solution not from the birth of the child, but already during the mother's pregnancy. In addition, malnourished women are more likely to die during pregnancy.
27% of babies born in developing countries have a weight and height much lower than what would apply. Likewise, 25% die from causes related to insufficient growth during pregnancy due to malnutrition in the mother.
The low fetal growth of these babies is mainly due to the fact that, in the vast majority of cases, the pregnant woman does not have access to nutrition promotion services until the fifth or even sixth month. Hence, there is an average of 800,000 neonatal deaths due to low fetal growth.
There are a large number of proposals focused on eradicating long-term malnutrition starting from pregnancy. For their part, WHO and all NGOs involved in the fight against child malnutrition propose a series of measures to combat malnutrition, including:
- Sensitize the whole world against this serious disease
- Make donations to alleviate the famine
- Start projects to improve agriculture in Africa
- Distribute therapeutic foods
- Continue with the comprehensive plan for nutrition promoted by Action Against Hunger (ACH)
However, providing pregnant women with supplements of micronutrients, calcium, folic acid and foods high in carbohydrates should also be one of the fundamental objectives of any program aimed at eradicating this serious problem.
Food and nutritional security worldwide must also go hand in hand. Instability in food prices is a trigger for the various problems of malnutrition that affect children in Africa and other countries.
Probably the empowerment of women is another key to progress on the path towards the eradication of child malnutrition in the African continent. If mothers had equal access to the full range of health and labor services, pregnancy could be controlled and, thus, prevent the development of diseases and problems affecting the fetus.
But not everything is bad news. In the last two decades, great success has been achieved in the fight against HIV and malaria, thus saving the lives of millions of children and contributing to an improvement in the quality of life of these people. However, much remains to be done to combat malnutrition, as hunger remains the leading cause of child death in Africa.
This article has been shared 1155 times.
Finally, we have selected the previous and next article of the block "Poverty in the world"so you can continue reading: