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THREE MILLION children die annually due to malnutrition

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
June 9th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Malnutrition, which is not enough of the right foods, in lieu of starvation, casts a deadly toll on the planet's child population. According to a new study, nearly half of all deaths among children less than five years of age, 3.1 million deaths a year - is caused by malnutrition. Children who do survive a poor diet grow up to have lifelong health problems, gravely impacting their nations' development.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Stunting, a form of malnutrition which causes a child to be too small for his or her age, affected at least 165 million children worldwide in 2011. Africa and Asia showed the highest prevalence, according to the 2013 Lancet series of articles.

"Countries will not be able to break out of poverty or sustain economic advances when so much of their population is unable to achieve the nutritional security that is needed for a healthy and productive life," Professor Robert Black, of Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the leading author of the report says.

"Understanding that 45 percent of all child mortality (under) five is underlined by under-nutrition is major," Sandra Matuma, senior nutrition adviser at charity Action Against Hunger adds.

"We need to know that to push governments, to invest in treatments, prevention, strategies... (This series) provides evidence-based information for advocacy."

This year's Lancet research re-evaluated problems of maternal and child malnutrition, such as poor breastfeeding practices and vitamin and mineral deficiencies. The series then provided a framework to achieve optimal fetal and child growth.

Child under-nutrition, the report states has permanent and impairing physical consequences, affecting children's growth and development and possibly resulting in poor school performance and increased vulnerability to diseases.

New statistics which show that children born too small for their gestational age, which is over a quarter of births in low and middle-income countries face an added death risk. Restricted growth in the womb, due to maternal under-nutrition, is estimated to be responsible for more than a quarter of all newborn deaths.

The Lancet, in its 2008 study estimated that malnutrition was the cause of 35 percent of all deaths in children less than five years of age, a sharp decrease from previous estimates of 50 percent.

"We now believe we had underestimated and also some of the risk factors have changed in the background, so our current estimation is a lot closer to that 50 percent," Professor Zulfiqar Bhutta, of Aga Khan University in Karachi, Pakistan, told Reuters.

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