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The Health Risks of Malnutrition

Image of a little boy eating a meal at the ChildFund Supervised Neighborhood Play center in Pili, Philippines
Five-year-old Benedict eats a meal at a ChildFund SNP (Supervised Neighborhood Play) center in Pili, Philippines. Photo by Jake Lyell.

Millions of children are affected by poverty all over the world, and malnutrition remains a serious problem for many communities. In developing nations like those ChildFund serves, many children do not have access to a well-balanced diet with the nutrients they need to develop properly. As a result, malnutrition can lead to health problems and even death.

A Struggle to Survive

According to the World Health Organization's World Food Programme, one of the most detrimental effects of malnutrition is the inability to resist disease.

In fact, the United Nations' Standing Committee on Malnutrition reports that malnutrition is the largest single contributor to the spread of disease worldwide. If children do not get adequate amounts of vital minerals, their bodies become weak, and their immune systems can be compromised. This is especially damaging in developing nations where illnesses such as cholera, tuberculosis and malaria are prevalent.

More than 3.5 million children die every year from malnutrition, and inadequate food and poor diet are serious problems for children living in the Horn of Africa. ChildFund works in countries like Ethiopia, Kenya and Uganda to monitor the health of vulnerable children and deliver support services through our network of trained community health workers.

Secondary Malnutrition

Although a lack of food is a major factor in many cases of malnutrition, vulnerable children in developing nations also face threats to their nutritional intake from disease. According to the World Health Organization, secondary malnutrition is a serious problem in many countries. This refers to instances when the body cannot properly process minerals and nutrients in food due to health conditions such as diarrhea. This is a serious issue in developing nations where a lack of clean water and poor sanitation are common.

ChildFund works in some of the poorest countries in the world to combat malnutrition and its devastating long-term impact on children. We reach out to families and communities that need it most — often giving them the tools and training necessary to produce food themselves. In addition, we work to educate mothers and caregivers about proper nutrition and the importance of a well-balanced diet for children. We also improve sanitation and water sources in developing nations to ensure children are at less risk of contracting waterborne illnesses that can be devastating when a child is already malnourished.

To help ChildFund fight child poverty and reduce the impact of malnutrition in the world's poorest countries, please consider making a donation to our Children's Greatest Needs program.

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ChildFund International has earned high ratings from Charity Navigator, the American Institute of Philanthropy and Charities Review Council.

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