malnutrition in myanmarMyanmar, formerly known as Burma, has an estimated population of 53 million people. Of this population, 2.5 million children in Myanmar suffer from stunted growth as a result of being malnourished over an extended period of time. Malnourished children often experience long term debilitating mental and psychical effects. These effects also impact the community and health resources available.

Currently the rate of malnutrition in Myanmar is staggeringly high. The western area of the country, where 1.3 million Rohingya Muslims live, has unprecedented levels. More than 140,000 people are subjected to living in filthy, overcrowded camps. Others face restricted movement from villages and a lack of access to basic needs, such as clean water, food, education and healthcare. Political issues and ethnically motivated crimes have caused over 200,000 people to flee to neighboring areas such as Bangladesh to save their lives.

Human Rights Watch reports have indicated that ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity have occurred in Myanmar as a result of the atrocities faced by the Rohingya people. However, this minority is not recognized by the government, and the term Rohingya is prohibited from being used by the government in Myanmar.

In accordance with Millennium Development Goal One, to end hunger and extreme poverty, Myanmar has attempted to make progress. As of 2013, it has been collaborating with UNICEF in order to help combat child malnutrition. Myanmar has joined other countries in the global ‘scaling up nutrition’ movement.

The United States and other countries need to work with the government of Myanmar to help it create reform programs that provide equality to all its people, including equal rights protection and access to food, clean water and sanitation. Progress has been made, but the potential for more is great.

Erika Wright

Sources: The Parliament Magazine, UNICEF
Photo: Flickr

malnutrition in botswana
Ranked 52nd from last (out of 182) on the Human Development Index, Botswana lacks a lot of basic needs to support its citizens. Malnutrition in Botswana is taking a bigger toll on the country then most would guess. Affecting things such as wages, health care systems, and cognitive development, malnutrition needs to addresses and reduced drastically.

The cost of health care that is needed to help those affected by malnutrition in Botswana increases the burden that malnutrition has on the economy. Also, children who are malnourished between conception and age two are at high risk for impaired cognitive development. In the future, problems like these can lead to adverse effects in the country’s productivity and growth since many will not have the cognitive capability to carry out tasks that require advanced ability which would most likely benefit the country greatly.

Vitamin and mineral deficiencies are some of the main indicators of malnutrition in Botswana. Vitamin A is an important vitamin that some are missing. It is reported that 29 percent of preschool aged children and 19% of pregnant women have a Vitamin A deficiency. Thirty-eight percent of preschool aged children and 21 percent of pregnant women have an Iron deficiency. Also, nearly one third of all households do not consume iodized salt, which leads to other disorders.

Vitamin deficiency is where UNICEF Botswana comes in to aid. In the past couple of years, UNICEF Botswana has offered a successful Vitamin A Supplementation program for children six-59 months old. UNICEF believes that the way forward is to sustain the child survival achievements.

With the economy heavily reliant on future generations, Botswana has a situation that needs to be dealt with in order to secure prominence not only in the present, but also in the future, when these now malnourished children will live. If Botswana and UNICEF can effectively aid those who are malnourished, the country will start to see improvements in all sectors due to the increased overall productivity of abled bodies.

– Erik Nelson

Sources: UNICEF, World Bank
Photo: WordPress

Niger ranks dead last out of 187 countries on the 2014 Human Development Index. With a very high fertility rate and very low life expectancy, Niger exemplifies a country that is in crippling poverty. Its location renders the country landlocked and adjacent to the Sahara Desert, leaving few resources, especially food, available. This leads to severe malnutrition in Niger.

The World Food Programme estimates that there are around 2.5 million people living in Niger that are chronically food-insecure and unable to meet the basic requirements of nutrition even when their agricultural production is at its normal capacity. In 2005 and 2010, agricultural production took hits and the country fell 14 percent short of the usual outcome each time. For a country finding it hard to function at the average level, this was detrimental, especially for the children of Niger.

Children under the age of five are often the most susceptible to opportunistic diseases caused by malnutrition. Diarrhea and skin and respiratory infections are commonly linked to malnutrition. It is estimated that nearly 331,000 children under the age of five in Niger will need to be treated for malnutrition.

UNICEF and the WFP are working together to help alleviate the malnutrition in Niger.

UNICEF is providing a blanket feeding program that is targeted for children and lactating women in the worst affected areas in Niger. One first-hand account of this program is that of a 19-year-old mother and her 19-month-old son.

Hanatou Hassan brought her son, Boubakar, to a feeding center run by UNICEF. The workers said Boubakar was so thin and weak that he couldn’t keep his head up. When admitted, Boubakar was given two nutrient-rich formulas in order to return him to health. After two weeks, Boubakar was able to breastfeed again and was also able to go back to his parents. When the father came to get his son, he said he couldn’t even recognize Boubakar they had done so well with him.

The WFP aims to strengthen the resilience of the chronically vulnerable and at risk communities by ensuring there is a safety net for all the areas that are affected by seasonal periods of constrained access to food. The Under a Protracted Relief and Rehabilitation Operation, or PRRO, created by the WFP, implemented the following programs:

  • Food for Assets activities promoting land regeneration
  • Water harvesting/irrigation activities towards increased local production
  • Year-round Targeted Supplementary Feeding for moderately acute malnourished children ages six-59 months and pregnant/nursing mothers

Niger is in a worrisome state. Its location prevents them from conducting many types of trade and their economic and agricultural systems are very fragile. Through the programs described above, UNICEF and the WFP may be able to take down acute malnutrition in Niger and maybe even all malnutrition in Niger.

Erik Nelson

Sources: World Food Programme,  UNICEF 1,  UNICEF 2, United Nations Development Programme
Photo: The Age

Even though the civil war in Liberia ended in 2003, the effects of that war still affect their infrastructure today. One of the most concerning side effects is malnutrition, as a study from 2012 recorded that 35.8 percent of Liberia’s citizens fell under the category of malnourished. A large number of those citizens are just children. The U.N.’s World Food Program reported in 2010 that 41.8 percent of children under the age of five years old were considered stunted due to malnourishment.

“Stunted” can mean a variety of health problems: hindered growth, a weak immune system, a smaller IQ, blindness, brain damage and eventually death. Not only does Liberia lack the proper means and knowledge to nourish their bodies, they also struggle with gaining access to clean, safe drinking water. When faced with unclean water and other unhygienic practices, children can easily develop diarrhea which makes nourishment an even harder goal to reach.

Another contributing factor to malnutrition in Liberia is teenage pregnancy. They have one of the highest teenage birth rates in the entire world. Thirty-eight percent of girls are pregnant or mothers by age 18. This high birth rate can be attributed to the poverty Liberia faces, which in turn affects their education and resources.  Fifteen percent of these mothers are malnourished themselves, impacting a child before he or she is even born.

Organizations are attempting to fix this issue by teaching Liberians about contraception, hygiene, agriculture and the importance of breastfeeding. There is a trend where young mothers in Liberia do not wish to breastfeed for cosmetic reasons. Other charities are providing milk, folic acid and other medical treatment to Liberian’s malnourished, particularly the babies. Once a baby starts to become stunted due to malnourishment, it is difficult to reverse the process.

Those providing aid to Liberians hope to stop this epidemic. While there are many other issues resulting from the poverty in Liberia, malnutrition is dramatically altering and even ending lives. With some small changes to their nourishment practices, a large percentage of lives can be saved.

Melissa Binns

Sources: Action Against Hunger, AllAfrica, Child Fund International, UNICEF
Photo: Press TV

malnutrition in kazakhstan
Malnutrition in Kazakhstan? In the heart of Central Asia, a region known for issues with health, Kazakhstan stands as a possible success story in the well being of its people. With child malnutrition rates below five percent, lower than the Central Asian average and well below the rates for some of its neighbors, the Kazakh government and aid organizations working in the country have made improvements in malnutrition efforts worthy of praise.

Born in the post-Soviet world, Kazakhstan is still a relatively new state. Made up of ethnic Kazakhs as well as a large population of ethnic Russians, Kazakhstan is the largest country to come out of the USSR other than Russia itself. It dwarfs its neighbors of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, spanning across almost three million square miles of continent but remaining landlocked. It is the biggest economy in Central Asia and is currently going through an economic diversification process that the government hopes will stabilize and lengthen growth.

Almost all indicators of malnutrition have improved in Kazakhstan in the last decade. From 2004 to 2014, the prevalence of food inadequacy declined from 10.1 percent to 5.9 percent. The percent of children who are stunted declined from 17.5 percent in 2006 to 13.1 percent just four years later.

The prevalence of anaemia in children, which is characterized by fatigue and decreased work output, decreased from 35.4 percent in 2004 to 30 percent in 2011. However, the overall presence of undernourishment had almost no change from 2004 to 2007, leaving 800,000 people vulnerable to undernourishment.

Central Asia as a region has an ongoing battle with undernourishment and malnutrition. Common demarcations of this are anaemia, which is a decrease in the amount of red blood cells in the blood, iodine deficiency, iron deficiency and Vitamin A deficiency.

Kazakhstan preformed well in all of these categories. Iodine deficiency, which was a huge problem after the collapse of the Soviet Union, has been almost completely eradicated in Kazakhstan by iodizing all salt consumed in the country. Anaemia levels are lower in the country than in most of its neighbors. Regional averages for iron deficiencies and vitamin A deficiencies hover around 50-60 percent for women and children.

While by no means in the clear with malnutrition, especially for children, Kazakhstan has continued to improve in most indicators. It is working towards a more stable, diversified economy that will hopefully keep food prices low and unchanging.

Caitlin Huber

Sources: CIA,  Knoema,  IRIN
Photo: Inter Press Service News Agency

malnutrition in CAR
Last year, clashes in the Central African Republic, or CAR, between Christian and Islamic militants claimed the lives 2,116 civilians. The CAR is fast becoming home to a ghastly humanitarian crisis, in which violence is exacerbating malnutrition.

In the capital city of Bangui, the number of children facing life-threatening malnutrition has tripled since violence began escalating in December of 2013. Their situation is being complicated by the brutal course that the conflict has taken.

Action Against Hunger collected over 1,000 case studies of parents of malnourished children in the CAR between July 2013 and March 2014, and found that 75 percent presented symptoms of PTSD.

PTSD can significantly impair a mother’s ability to nurse a child. Nurses in health centers around Bangui have reported that some traumatized mothers become convinced that they cannot produce milk. Others simply do not respond to their child’s needs—some have even attempted suicide and infanticide. PTSD in children can also play a role in malnourishment, as traumatized children may refuse to eat.

The conflict in the Central African Republic is not only causing malnutrition—it is also exporting it.

Over the past year, conflict in Nigeria and the Central African Republic has displaced some 1.2 million people. These migrants typically seek refuge in neighboring countries like Chad, Niger and Cameroon, further straining the resources of countries already dealing with rampant malnourishment.

On Feb. 12, the U.N. requested $2 billion in aid for people across Africa’s Sahel belt—a semi-arid strip of land south of the Sahara Desert that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.

“The violence and conflict has a devastating effect, it is casting a shadow across the region,” said Robert Piper, U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel.

Parker Carroll

Sources: Eyewitness News, The Guardian 1,  The Guardian 2,   The Guardian 3
Photo: Africa Up Close

Malnutrition in Benin, like in many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, is currently widespread. However, some experts have suggested the malnutrition rate can decrease if nutrition programs focus on education and community empowerment.

Malnutrition is defined by the World Food Programme as “a state in which the physical function of an individual is impaired to the point where he or she can no longer maintain adequate bodily performance process such as growth, pregnancy, lactation, physical work and resisting and recovering from disease.” Globally, it contributes to more than 50 percent of children’s deaths.

Researchers measure chronic malnutrition in terms of “stunting,” or low height for age. Other aspects of malnutrition include the presence or absence of edema, which is dependent upon the relationship between total calorie intake and protein intake. In addition, micronutrient deficiencies, particularly in iodine and vitamin A, characterize malnutrition, leading to growth problems in children.

In Benin, roughly 4 in 10 children are chronically malnourished, according to the World Bank. In the north of the country, one UNICEF representative set the rate of severe malnutrition, which often requires immediate hospitalization, at 34.6 percent.

Thus, the problem is severe and threatens the lives of children each and every day. However, the task of reducing malnutrition in Benin faces many obstacles.

For one, 50 different languages are spoken throughout the country, limiting the scope that nutrition programs can realistically aim for in most cases. Also, many entrenched cultural beliefs induce malnutrition inadvertently, so medical personnel have expressed a need to replace myth with other forms of knowledge.

“The main cause of malnutrition is ignorance,” one nurse in North Benin said.

One myth holds that children who eat eggs become thieves. Moreover, it is culturally acceptable for a man to eat first and to leave whatever remains of his share for his wife and children.

The weapon against ignorance is education, which some experts argue must be community-driven in order to work around the country’s linguistic and cultural diversity.

One such educational program is the Community Nutrition Education Project launched in 2012. Through this program, 12,607 grandmothers in various communities were taught how to promote the health of pregnant women and children. As important figures in their communities, these grandmothers are in prime positions to educate village members.

The lessons are not complicated. Village members are being taught how to use readily available foods to improve the nutrition of meals. For example, instead of feeding a child only millet, a mother could enrich the dish with soya, moringa or other local foods.

Organizations are working on a broader scale as well, but education remains a key aspect of their work. In 2013, the World Bank approved a payment of $28 million to secure nutrition services for hundreds of thousands of children and training for about 75,000 pregnant mothers and adolescents.

Certainly, structural factors are currently acting to keep malnutrition a problem in Benin. General food insecurity is high, with nearly 12% of food produced going to waste, and, as previously mentioned, the country’s diversity complicates the process of reform.

However, addressing the cultural factors leading to malnourishment can effectively reduce malnutrition in Benin, structural hindrances notwithstanding.

Ryan Yanke

Sources: UNICEF, World Bank 1, World Bank 2, Panapress, Sci Dev Net, University of Michigan
Photo: VECO

Malnutrition can originate from all sorts of sources: lack of funds, lack of access to food or even negligence. According to the World Health Organization, 45 percent of infant deaths are caused by a lack of nutrition. And malnutrition may not always be the direct cause of death in these children. Often they may pass from things like malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea, all of which stem from a lack of nutrition.

In areas like South Africa, malnutrition is an issue affecting 64 percent of infants. UNICEF has made significant efforts to pervade the country and educate mothers on the benefits of breastfeeding. It seems the primary source of a lack of nutrition has been mixed-feeding practices. In these cases, supplemental food is certainly less than enough from a nutritional standpoint. Nevertheless, 53 percent of infants in South Africa under six months of age are mix-fed.

UNICEF has taken initiative by directly corresponding with the Department of Health in South Africa in order to improve policies and education. They have also taken the approach to focus malnutrition on HIV transmission. With babies more severely undernourished, they are much more apt to receive HIV from their mothers because they are weak and unable to grow.

Deaths under the age of five occur in very specific regions, precisely sub-Saharan Africa and Southern India. The good news is that the rest of the world has seen a drop from 1990 from 32 percent to 18 percent in the percentage of infant deaths under the age of five.

While infants in certain parts of the world suffer from malnutrition due to a lack of finance or education, it seems almost everywhere in the world malnutrition can happen as a result of negligence. For example in 2010 a baby died in South Korea after only a three months of life at a mere 5.5 pounds. CNN reported that the couple was too engaged in online gaming to have paid attention to their newborn. Ironically the game they were playing involved raising a virtual child.

In northern France this year, an infant died of malnourishment at 11 months of age. Parents magazine reported that the vegan couple was only breastfeeding the infant. At this age babies should be introduced to more solid foods, and especially in the case of a vegan couple. Because the infant’s mother was not receiving enough protein, she died with both a Vitamin A and B12 deficiency.

Regardless of what may cause malnutrition in infants, it is something that clearly needs to be monitored. It gives us hope that certain statistics are falling, but the world needs to send its focus more so to the problem areas. We can give our donations, but best of all we can give our wisdom and our health knowledge to prevent more infants from unnecessarily leaving this earth.

Kathleen Lee

Sources: WHO, Parenting, CNN, UNICEF 
Photo: Flickr

The problem of hunger in Kazakhstan is no longer considered urgent. As of 2004, the country has successfully achieved the first target, within the framework of Millennium Development Goal (MDG) one: halving the proportion of people suffering from hunger. However, the larger issue remains that a majority of the proportion still suffers from poverty and lacks access to a balanced nutrition.

In Kazakhstan, four percent of children under five are underweight, while almost one percent are severely underweight. Another 13 percent are stunted for their age, illustrating measures of both acute and chronic malnutrition. Hidden hunger, or deficiencies of vital vitamins and minerals in a diet, is common among children in Kazakhstan and often leads to their morbidity and mortality.

In related news, women are likely to obtain iron-deficiency anemia, with almost 50 percent of reproductive age women suffering from the condition. High rates of anemia during pregnancy have led to large numbers of children in Kazakhstan suffering from slow brain development, stunted growth and a decrease of intellectual capacity. Mothers who suffer from iron deficiencies also create a greater chance of death for their child during pregnancy and childbirth.

Lack of Vitamin A for pregnant women has also caused concern in Kazakhstan, due to the fact that roughly 20 percent of children are born with depressed immune systems. Consequently, the children are more prone to infectious diseases without the capability of fighting it off.

Poverty, especially in rural areas, is to blame for the remaining starvation in the country. Levels of rural poverty are currently twice as high as urban poverty, leaving many children in remote villages with inadequate food intake. Children in West Kazakhstan are more likely to be underweight than any other children in the country. However, the percentage decreases depending on the level of education of their mothers.

Although hunger in Kazakhstan is well on its way in being eliminated, the country still has work that needs to be done. Kazakhstan is active on the regional and international arena in achieving development goals and objectives. Given Kazakhstan’s success within the framework of MDG 1, this bodes well for social service delivery in the future.

– Leeda Jewayni

Sources: UNDP, UNDG
Photo: Flickr

End Starvation
Nearly 25,000 people die every day from starvation. While in richer countries nutrition isn’t always a paramount problem, there are still 947 million people living in developing nations who are undernourished; we have the ability to help lower this number. Below are a list of ways you can help easily end starvation.

1. Raise Money

During the 2011 East African famine, relief organizations such as Save The Children and UNICEF launched campaigns to raise money for feeding starving children. By using clear and simple incentives (“just $10 can feed a child for seven days!”), smart organizations allowed even those halfway across the world to help those in need. Donating money is simple, easy and can usually be done online with just a click of a button.

2. Urge your Congressional Leaders to Support Crucial Legislation

Calling or emailing your congressional leaders is a simple and a sure way to increase their chances of supporting a bill which could save millions of lives. One such bill still waiting to be passed in the House of Representatives is the Global Food Security Act of 2013, which would improve nutrition and strengthen agriculture development in developing countries. Other similar legislation that could use your support includes the Food Aid Reform Act and Water for the World Act.

3. Limit Your Daily Intake

Over the past three decades, the average intake of dietary fats has dramatically increased in almost every country except Africa. With a recommended range from between 15 to 35 percent, we are seeing a stark contrast in dietary intake. In fact, many countries in North America and Western Europe exceeded this recommended daily intake, while countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia fell dramatically below.

Despite our growing intake, we are quickly running out of natural resources. In an overpopulated world, it is up to each of us to individually be cognizant of our daily intake. By limiting our intake in richer countries, we are ensuring that our world is capable of growing enough food in the first place for all of our global citizens.

By helping others who suffer from malnutrition, we are also helping ourselves in return. The most common causes of death around the world—including heart disease, obesity, cancer and chronic illness—can be a result of unhealthy eating habits.

By remaining aware that we have a much larger role in helping to end global hunger and poverty than we may believe, we can help put an end to millions of those going to sleep hungry at night.

– Nick Magnanti

Sources: CNN, Borgen Project, McCollum House, Food for the Poor, Green Facts, Green Facts 2
Photo: Action ContrelAfaim