Malnutrition has multiple consequences as it affects simultaneously the children’s health, the economy and the education level of the country.
The children are of course the first ones to be affected with the countdown of the first 1000 days, from the time of conception up to the age of 2, when the organs and tissues have formed, amongst others the brain and the bones. During this time the child’s full physical and cognitive potential is defined for the rest of their life. A child’s future therefore completely depends on its food intake as a foetus and during the fiorst months of their life. If malnutrition is not tackled early, it will cause irreversible handicaps in their development. To name two deficiencies among the most common ones : deficiencies in iron, which may cause fatal anaemia cases or lead to a decrease in productivity. As always, women and children are the most vulnerable. 4 to 5 billion people are estimated to suffer from this deficiency. Anaemia increases the risk of haemorrhage and septicaemia during childbirth. These women give birth to premature babies or light-weight babies, who suffer from repeated infections due to their weakened immune system and later on, if they are able to survive, will suffer from learning and development disorders.
Deficiencies in vitamin A can cause blindness or for the immune system to weaken. At the global scale one child out of three under the age of going to school, and one pregnant woman out of six suffer from deficiencies in vitamin A, because of an inadequate food intake. Vitamin A stimulates the immune response. Children with these deficiencies face a higher risk of dying from an infectious disease such as measles or diarrhoea. Vitamin A supplements provided to children between the age of 6 and 59 months have proven very effective in the decrease of mortality in countries, where this deficiency constitutes a public health issue. Source UNICEF April 2013.
Each year millions of children die prematurely, malnutrition having consequences on society as a whole. Infectious diseases, neurological and physical handicaps, fall in productivity among adults resulting from these deficiencies; all of this has a direct influence on the nations’ economies, costing them 5% of their GNP. In addition, according to UNICEF, it has been found that most countries, which have experienced regular and relatively strong economic growth, have seen an improvement in nutrition among their citizens in the past 20 years.
Malnutrition means that children don’t go to school or have difficulties focusing in class. It is a whole country’s education level that is at stake and consequently the country’s future.