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Unformatted text preview: 1 The problem of maternal and child undernutrition in developing countries More than 3.5 million mothers and children under five die unnecessarily each year due to the underlying cause of undernutrition, and millions more are perma- nently disabled by the physical and mental effects of a poor dietary intake in the earliest months of life. By the time children reach their second birthday, if undernourished, they could suffer irreversible physical and cognitive damage, impacting their future health, economic well-being, and welfare. The consequences of insufficient nourishment continue into adulthood and are passed on to the next generation as undernourished girls and women have children of their own. Undernutrition includes a wide array of effects including intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR) resulting in low birthweight; underweight , a reflection of low weight-for-age; stunting , a chronic restriction of growth in height indicated by a low height-for-age; wasting , an acute weight loss indicated by a low weight-for-height; and less visible micronutrient deficiencies . Undernutrition is caused by a poor dietary intake that may not provide sufficient nutrients, and/or by common infectious diseases, such as diarrhoea. These conditions are most significant in the first two years of life, highlighting the importance of nutrition in pregnancy and the window of opportunity for preventing undernutrition from conception through 24 months of age. Today, using recent estimates and latest data and standards, it is estimated that 13 million children are born annually with IUGR, 112 million are underweight and 178 million children under 5 years suffer from stunting, the vast majority in south-central Asia and sub-Saharan Africa (figure 1). Of these, 160 million (90%) live in just 36 countries, representing almost half (46%) of the 348 million children in those coun- tries. An estimated 55 million children are wasted, of whom 19 million children are affected by severe acute malnutrition (SAM), defined as a weight-for-height measurement 3 standard deviations below the median. Although in recent years the global public health and nutrition community has focused primarily on obesity and specific micronutrient interventions, maternal and child undernutrition continues to place a heavy burden on low- and middle-income countries. Because under- nutrition is an intergenerational problem, countries with high rates of maternal and child undernutrition face an uncertain future in which the health of their The Lancet s Series on Maternal and Child Undernutrition Executive Summary Executive Summary 2 Panel 1: Series key messages In poor countries maternal and child undernutrition is the underlying cause of more than one-third (3 ....
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This note was uploaded on 09/08/2010 for the course NUFS 139 at San Jose State University .