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Child Malnutrition

...to save a child's life.
1 in 4 children suffers from malnutrition. You can help.Donate Today »

What is malnutrition

Malnutrition is a lack of proper nutrition. Undernutrition is a life threatening effect of malnourishment; which includes stunting (low height for age), wasting (low weight for height), underweight (low weight for age) and micronutrient deficiencies or insufficiencies (a lack of important vitamins and minerals).

Malnutrition increases dramatically, and kills most rapidly, in emergencies. This happens because livelihoods and food crops are lost; food supplies are interrupted; and an increase in the occurrence of diarrhoeal and infectious diseases is probable. In emergencies children are most at risk of suffering from severe acute malnutrition and are in need of therapeutic food and life-saving 24- hour care in feeding centres or hospitals.

The impact of Malnutrition

Proper nutrition is imperative to the survival of not only individual lives but also communities as a whole.

People who are well nourished are more likely to be healthy and productive and are capable or learning. Undernutrition is devastating to families and communities, it blunts the intellect, saps productivity and perpetuates poverty.

What is Stunting

Stunting, defined as low weight for age, affects 165 million children under five – that's one out of every four children. The damage to physical and cognitive development during the first two year of a child’s life is largely irreversible. Malnutrition leads to poor school performance, which can result in future income reduction. Adults who were undernourished as children are at risk of developing diseases such as obesity, diabetes and cardiovascular issues.

Stunted growth is the consequence of chronic, long-term nutritional deficiencies. It is estimated that 180 million children worldwide suffer from this condition.

On average, children who suffer from stunting are 4-6 inches shorter than their healthy peers, and at higher risk of contracting a disease. They possess lower cognitive capacity, and have a reduced ability to learn. When they grow up, they wield less earning power.

Causes of stunting

The physical and cognitive damage incurred from inadequate nutrition in utero and during the first two years of life are permanent and irreversible. But it can be prevented.

Of all the proven interventions, exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months – together with nutritious foods after six months – is one of the most important factors in healthy development and child survival, and could reduce overall under five child mortality by 19 percent.

Report: Improving Child Nutrition: The achievable imperative for global progress

Stunting affects 165 million children under 5 years of age around the world, and it can trap those children in a vicious cycle of poverty and undernutrition. Learn more »
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What is a famine?

It takes a lot for a famine to be declared but by the time a famine is declared, it is often too late. Find out how one is declared and why we should never reach one. Learn more »

Gifts of Food

When food is scarce, these UNICEF gifts provide life-saving nutrition. Help now »

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