La child malnutrition is an serious illness caused by low food intake and lack of nutrients in the body. Chronic malnutrition and poor diet are consequences of the extreme poverty. According to data collected by the World Health Organization (WHO), each year between three and five million babies and children under 5 years of age die from malnutrition.

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Child malnutrition in Africa: current situation and real photos

Symptoms and pathophysiology

This disease affects the physical development of children, who suffer alterations in the composition of their body caused by extreme thinness.




In addition, it brings with it serious infectious diseases derived from the intake of food in poor condition and contaminated water, among others.

At the same time, this disables the correct mental and cognitive development of children, a consequence that is reinforced by the inaccessibility to an education in conditions that is suffered in the continent.

La child malnutrition It can have consequences on several levels that accompany the affected person throughout his life. During childhood, children with child malnutrition acute may manifest the following pathophysiology:

  • Decreased growth of brain tissue
  • Decreased cardiac muscle mass
  • Decreased oxygen consumption
  • Decreased weight renal plasma flow
  • Anemia

As for mental problems, they may suffer from mental retardation, motor disorders, hypothermia, heart murmur, acute diarrhea, fatty liver, hypothyroidism, paleness, etc. In summary, malnutrition generates irreversible problems not only physically, but also socially and even educational

La Spanish Association of Pediatrics (AEPED) defines growth retardation or stunting as that situation in which the child stops progressing in development with respect to the expected growth for his age.

This growth retardation is the origin of what we call child malnutrition, which results in alterations in body size and composition. This is due to a deficit in nutritional intake 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 nutritional needs and contributions of these children is a common factor in the vast majority of cases of childhood malnutrition.

It is during the period from pregnancy until the child reaches 3 months of life that the development of the nervous system takes place.

From that moment on, the first intellectual capacities manifest in the human being, 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 favoring the correct development of the organism at all levels.

When these conditions are negative, as in the most rural areas of the African continent, they become the main cause of infant mortality due to malnutrition.

These precarious conditions not only make the food of low quality, but also 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 between African towns
  • Spread 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 will when trying to alleviate these living conditions.




The main problems plaguing 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 quality of life of the population is well below the level considered normal.

The work of NGOs

The NGOs that work in this cause coincide in stating that the real problem is not the lack of food, but its unequal distribution. Experts say that the reality is that there is enough food in the world to feed a third more of the world's population.

At present, there are a large number of NGOs that help this cause, such as Doctors without Borders, UNICEF, Alliance for Child Nutrition (Prisma NGO) ... All of them contribute their grain of sand to help these children to be able to 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 people and development projects.

Thanks to WFP, food is distributed to areas affected by malnutrition and extreme poverty. Since 1996, WFP has been governed by a Board of Directors in which 36 Member States participate. Currently, less than 20% of WFP programs are devoted to development projects.

The World Food Program is also dedicated to providing logistical support so that needed food can reach those who need it most, regardless of geographic location. For WFP, hunger and child malnutrition should be high on the international agenda.

One of the main considerations when establishing strategies to combat malnutrition in Africa is to find solutions not from the birth of the child, but already during the mother's pregnancy. Also, 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 correspond. Likewise, 25% die from causes related to insufficient growth during pregnancy due to malnutrition in the mother.

The poor fetal growth of these babies is mainly due to the fact that, in the vast majority of cases, the pregnant woman does not access nutrition promotion services until the fifth or even sixth month. Hence an average of 800.000 neonatal deaths due to poor fetal growth.

There are a large number of proposals aimed at eradicating malnutrition in the long term starting from pregnancy. For its part, the WHO and all the 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
  • Initiate projects to improve agriculture in Africa
  • Distribute therapeutic food
  • Go ahead with the comprehensive plan for nutrition promoted by Action Against Hunger (ACH)

However, providing pregnant women with micronutrient supplements, 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.

Also food and nutrition security on a global scale must go hand in hand. Instability in food prices is a trigger for the various malnutrition problems that affect children in Africa and other countries.

The empowerment of women is probably another key to progress on the path towards eradicating child malnutrition on the African continent. If mothers had equal access to the full range of health and labor services, the pregnancy could be controlled and thus prevent the development of diseases and problems that affect the fetus.

But it is not all 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.

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