Effects of Malnutrion

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1.0 Background
Worldwide, children less than five years of age are known to be vulnerable and susceptible in many respects, especially on matters of health. Nutritional deficiencies and malnutrition have been identified to generally affect children more than any other group. This is primarily due to poor nutrition which has been identified to occur most in developing countries, as well as in more prosperous areas of the world. WHO Progress Report (2002) indicates that hunger and malnutrition remain the most devastating problems to the world’s poor and needy. Prevalence of malnutrition among under-five children is very high in many developing countries of the World and remains a huge challenge in many of these countries (Babatunde et al., 2011). It is estimated that about 230 million under-five children are believed to be chronically malnourished in developing countries (Van de Poel et. al., 2008). Similarly, according to the FAO, about 54% of deaths among children of this age group are believed to be associated with malnutrition in developing countries (FAO, 2008). In Sub-Saharan Africa alone, 41% of under-five children are malnourished and deaths from malnutrition are increasing on daily basis in the region (FAO, 2008). Nutrition is the sum total of the processes involved in the intake and utilization of food substances by living organisms, including ingestion, digestion, absorption, transport and metabolism of nutrients found in food (Melvin, 2005). Adequate nutrition during early childhood is fundamental to the development of each child’s potential. It is established that the period from birth to two years of age is a “critical window” for the promotion of optimal growth, health and overall survival of children (Ali et al., 2006). Good nutrition is the cornerstone for survival, health and development for current and succeeding generations. Well-nourished children perform better in school, grow into healthy adults and in turn give their children a better start in life (UNICEF, 2006). Breast milk is the primary source of nutrition for newborns before they are able to eat and digest other foods. It is rich in proteins, carbohydrates (lactose), vitamins A, C, D and E, minerals (iron, sodium, potassium, phosphorus and chloride) and essential fatty acids. The nutritional profile of breast milk is unmatched by any mammalian milk. It is for this reason that the United Nations International Children’s Education Fund (UNICEF) and the Ministry of Health (MoH), Ghana, recommend exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of the infant’s life. Children between the ages of six months and four years who do not get enough of the right types of food to eat easily become malnourished. Malnutrition is therefore the insufficient, excessive or imbalance consumption of dietary energy and nutrients. It manifests in different forms, such as under nutrition, over nutrition and micronutrients malnutrition (Smith and Haddad, 1999). The main indicators of child malnutrition are stunting, wasting and underweight. Malnutrition in early childhood is associated with functional impairment in adult life as malnourished children are physically and intellectually less productive when they become adults (Smith and Haddad, 1999). Children that are malnourished tend to have increased risk of morbidity and mortality and often suffer delayed mental development, poor school performances and reduced intellectual achievement. According to UNICEF (2006), each year, under-nutrition contributes to the deaths of about 5.6 million children under 5 years of age in the developing world, and 146 million children younger than 5 are underweight and at increased risk of early death, illness, disability, and underachievement. UNICEF reports that, in the least developed countries, 42% of children are stunted and 36% are underweight as a result of poor nutrition or under nutrition. In Ghana, malnutrition continues to be a significant public health and development concern...
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