Posted by: beyond5 June 2013

A recently published set of articles in The Lancet shines a new light on what we thought we knew about malnutrition.  A commonly referenced statistic is that one-third of preventable child deaths under the age of five are caused by malnutrition.  We now know that number to be closer to one-half: over 9,000 children under the age of five die each day from malnutrition.

This new research further shows that 165 million children in the developing world are stunted, meaning that they are in the bottom percentiles for height and weight when compared to other children their age.  This has implications far beyond being small.  Stunting has lifelong, irreversible effects, including a delay or break in cognitive development and a drop in productivity as an adult.  Studies show that in countries with a high prevalence of stunting, a country’s GDP can drop by as much as 8 percent.

However, for every one dollar invested into nutrition interventions, it is estimated that ten dollars goes back into the economy.  Some of the most successful interventions include exclusive breastfeeding up to 6 months of age and complementary breastfeeding thereafter, vitamin A, iodine and iron supplements.  Dr. Robert Black, professor at Johns Hopkins and Bloomberg School of public health reports that the cost of action to fight malnutrition worldwide is estimated at 9.6 billion dollars annually.  While this number sounds large, take into consideration that in 2012, Americans spent 17 billion dollars on video games and 16 billion dollars on chocolate. Many nutrition interventions are easily implemented through community health workers.


Read more on child and maternal nutrition from The Lancet


Add your name to tell President Obama that global leaders should focus on malnutrition as a way to increase health, strengthen economies and most importantly, save lives


Listen below to hear The Lancet interview Dr. Robert Black on malnutrition and successful interventions


Photo: From a village in Burundi, when Bella was a six-month-old, her health became fragile. Neighbors suspected that Goreth, her mother was suffering from HIV/AIDS because she gave birth to Bella after her husband had left her for almost two years. Discriminated by her neighborhood  hopeless, Goreth decided to go to a nearby health centre as her only hope. As it turned out, the suspected HIV/AIDS was nothing more than hunger. © 2012 Achel Bayisenge/World Vision