The Devastating Impact of Child Malnutrition
Millions of children living in developing nations are
at risk of malnutrition. Aside from the potential for children to die or suffer
disease, the effects of malnutrition can also pose a serious threat to children's
development in later life. In countries like Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda, many
children are at high risk of developmental delay caused by early and even
prenatal malnutrition, caused when a pregnant woman doesn't get proper
nourishment. ChildFund is working to educate mothers and provide children with
the food they need to grow into healthy, happy adults.
The Chance to Grow
Malnutrition is one of
the leading contributors to childhood stunting, according to the United Nations'
World Food Programme (WFP). This condition affects
more than 147 million children in developing nations and is also a primary
cause of mental retardation and even brain damage in some children.
Early intervention is
crucial to preventing child malnutrition, starting during pregnancy. The two-year
period starting with conception and continuing through birth and infancy is
known as the "window of opportunity." Unfortunately, many children do not have
access to the food they need in order to grow and develop normally, which leads
to serious complications in later life.
deficiencies can have a particularly serious impact on childhood development.
Research published by the WFP suggests that iron
deficiency can lead to health complications including permanently impaired
brain development, decreased growth and increased mortality and morbidity due to
secondary infections. Children's overall IQ can also suffer.
Child malnutrition is a
serious health problem in many countries, including Liberia. Years of civil war
have left parents in many communities unable to feed their children, resulting
in long-term health risks. On a visit to Liberia in 2011, ChildFund's CEO Anne
Lynam Goddard said the
effects of malnutrition in some areas were devastating.
"I haven't seen that
kind of malnutrition in a long time," said Goddard. "A long time."
Approximately 41 percent
of Liberian children under the age of 5 are stunted, according to data from the
WFP, meaning almost half the country's future population are at high risk of
permanent brain damage, reduced IQs and a susceptibility to disease and
Taking a Stand
Although child malnutrition
and its side effects are extremely prevalent in Africa, Mexico is also affected
by undernutrition. ChildFund
has worked in Mexico since 1955, and despite being the world's 12th largest
economy, 40 percent of the country's population live in poverty.
To combat the effects of child malnutrition and developmental disorders later in life, ChildFund
launched the Integral Nutrition Program in the poverty-stricken regions where we
work in Mexico. This initiative helps pregnant women and children under 5 by
providing regular checkups and educational programs to new mothers, designed to
help them monitor their children's growth. While there is much to be done in
Mexico, the success of our Integral Nutrition Program has resulted in a
substantial reduction in child malnutrition in the areas in which we work. Since
the launch of the initiative, malnutrition rates have dropped from 45 percent to
Clearly, there is much
work to be done to fight child poverty and combat childhood malnutrition, and
you can help. Through
sponsorship, you can invest in a child, allowing him or her to live a
happier, more fulfilling life.