Every year, roughly 6 million children under 5 die because of nutrition-related illness. And beyond this shocking statistic, malnutrition causes daily suffering and long-term setbacks for individuals, communities and entire countries.
When children don’t have enough to eat or when they lack adequate nutrition, this affects almost every aspect of their lives.
According to UNICEF, some 300 million children go to bed hungry every day. Of these only 8 percent are victims of famine or other emergencies. The rest suffer from long-term malnutrition which can be caused by poor health and illness that prevents the body from absorbing the nutrients it needs.
First and foremost, malnutrition affects children’s health. Sustained undernutrition can lead to stunted growth and retardation. Malnourished children have weaker immune systems and are more prone to infectious diseases.
Lack of food and/or adequate nutrition also affect children’s education and many malnourished children have trouble concentrating in school because of lethargy and poor attention spans.
When starvation is a real possibility, families are forced to make difficult choices. Children may be pulled out of school and sent to scavenge or work for food, subjecting them to lost education, early forced marriage, damaged health, sexual and labour abuse, and loss of basic rights. Girls are particularly vulnerable.
Beyond these immediate impacts on children, malnutrition carries social and economic costs that hold back entire communities. It's widely recognised that malnutrition is a result of poverty. But it’s also a cause of it.
Unable to reach their mental and physical potential, malnourished children who live to see adulthood are less productive than their well-nourished counterparts and often face a lifetime of chronic illness and disability.
At the family level, malnutrition-linked illnesses place enormous strain on coping mechanisms especially in poor communities where 'social services' don’t exist.
When you add all this up, the drain on global development caused by malnutrition is overwhelming. World Vision is focused on ensuring that all people, especially children, are able at all times to be free from hunger.