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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, especially in children, remains a serious problem for many communities. In developing nations like those ChildFund serves, many children do not have access to a the well-balanced, nutritious 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: Malnutrition in Children

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

In fact, the United Nations' Standing Committee on Malnutrition reports that malnutrition is the largest single contributor to the spread of diseases 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.

Malnutrition in children is responsible for more than 3.5 million deaths every year , and inadequate food and poor diet are serious problems for malnourished 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 one of the most common causes 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 problems 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 the devastating long-term health problems it causes. 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 for children and the importance of a well-balanced diet . 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 for an already malnourished child.

To help ChildFund eradicate extreme poverty and hunger in the world's poorest countries, please consider making a donation to our Children's Greatest Needs program.