Malnutrition: A Growing Threat


Food is a life necessity and a right for every person on Earth; we cannot survive without it. From food our body gets the nutrients it needs to grow and do its vital processes. According to the UN World Food Programme, 925 million people in the world do not have enough to eat.

Food security as defined by the World Food Summit is “when all people, at all times, have physical and economic access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food that meets their dietary needs and food preferences for an active and healthy life”. Lack of food leads to malnutrition because the body does not receive adequate nutrients from its diet; this causes damage to the vital organs and functions of the body, and it is common in the poorer and developing countries.

Sometimes, it is not only the lack of food or the inefficient diet that causes malnutrition; some people become malnourished because of certain diseases or conditions that prevent them from digesting or absorbing their food. For example, people who suffer from celiac disease have intestinal problems that are triggered by a protein called gluten found in wheat, rye, and barley. Celiac disease can interfere with the intestine’s ability to absorb nutrients, which may result in nutritional deficiencies.

Irregular intake of food is one of the main causes of malnutrition. The timings for breakfast, lunch, and dinner must be fixed; indiscipline in this matter is very bad. This bad habit of taking irregular meals causes indigestion and finally results in malnutrition.

In addition to these food-related causes of malnutrition, there are some general causes such as unclean environments, bodily diseases, heavy work and lack of exercising, lack of fresh and pure air, lack of sunlight, etc.

It is worth mentioning that despite the nations’ efforts to solve the food insecurity problem, which is one of the reasons that lead to malnutrition, Africa’s food security and nutrition situation is growing worse. Africa has been experiencing several episodes of acute food insecurity causing an immense loss of life and livelihoods over the past decades.

African countries have collectively made the least progress towards achieving the Millennium Development Goal of reducing hunger by 2015, and currently nearly 1/3 of its population lives in chronic hunger. Twenty-three million people in 11 countries in the African regions are affected by acute food insecurity and are facing malnutrition.

Among the factors that lead to this situation include exceptionally high population growth rates, political conflicts, climate changes, and the endemic poverty in some regions.

Poverty and food shortage are the main reasons behind the food insecurities and malnutrition problems in Africa. In 2004, 121 million sub-Saharan Africans lived on less than a meagre USD 0.50 a day. People living on less than USD 1.00 per day are unable to pay the prices they would need to buy all of the food they require; meat and fish consumption for the many poor Africans is a luxury.

In addition, over the past 30 years, Africa has become subject to erratic weather patterns and is often plagued by prolonged droughts followed by floods. These natural shocks trigger adverse consequences, including widespread food insecurity. Since most of the region’s inhabitants depend on rain-fed agriculture for their livelihoods, only 4% of cropland in sub-Saharan Africans is irrigated. Furthermore, the rural farming populations are the most affected because of their extremely low adaptive capacity, which is linked to acute poverty levels.

Malnutrition has many consequences for health and development, with mothers and children most vulnerable to the devastating effects. Malnourished mothers are at a greater risk of dying in childbirth and of delivering low-birth-weight babies who fail to survive infancy. Children also suffer from the malnutrition consequences because of their physiology and high calorie needs for growth and development. Malnutrition is the underlying cause of death of more than 2.6 million children each year.

Malnutrition should be seen as a global problem with severe consequences. The fight to combat food insecurity is a tough but not an insurmountable one. Future efforts will require active governments; and multilateral and bilateral donors pledging long-term funding to commit to national efforts to end famine and food insecurity at a level that is commensurate with the scale of the problem. Only then, we can overcome malnutrition problems.


This article was first published in print in SCIplanet, Winter 2015 issue.

Cover Image Credit:

About Us

SCIplanet is a bilingual edutainment science magazine published by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina Planetarium Science Center and developed by the Cultural Outreach Publications Unit ...
Continue reading

Contact Us

P.O. Box 138, Chatby 21526, Alexandria, EGYPT
Tel.: +(203) 4839999
Ext.: 1737–1781

Become a member

© 2024 | Bibliotheca Alexandrina