Thursday, October 1, 2009


Nutrition for Health and Development

Nutrition is an input to and foundation for health and development. Interaction of infection and malnutrition is well-documented. Better nutrition means stronger immune systems, less illness and better health. Healthy children learn better. Healthy people are stronger, are more productive and more able to create opportunities to gradually break the cycles of both poverty and hunger in a sustainable way. Better nutrition is a prime entry point to ending poverty and a milestone to achieving better quality of life.

Freedom from hunger and malnutrition is a basic human right and their alleviation is a fundamental prerequisite for human and national development.

WHO has traditionally focused on the vast magnitude of the many forms of nutritional deficiency, along with their associated mortality and morbidity in infants, young children and mothers. However, the world is also seeing a dramatic increase in other forms of malnutrition characterized by obesity and the long-term implications of unbalanced dietary and lifestyle practices that result in chronic diseases such as cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes.

All forms of malnutrition's broad spectrum are associated with significant morbidity, mortality, and economic costs, particularly in countries where both under- and overnutrition co-exist as is the case in developing countries undergoing rapid transition in nutrition and life-style.


Poor nutrition contributes to 1 out of 2 deaths (53%) associated with infectious diseases among children aged under five in developing countries (see graph)
1 out of 2 children in Africa with severe malnutrition dies during hospital treatment due to inappropriate care
1 out of 4 preschool children suffers from under-nutrition, which can severely affect a child's mental and physical development
Under-nutrition among pregnant women in developing countries leads to 1 out of 6 infants born with low birth weight. This is not only a risk factor for neonatal deaths, but also causes learning disabilities, mental, retardation, poor health, blindness and premature death.
Inappropriate feeding of infants and young children are responsible for one-third of the cases of malnutrition.
1 out of 3 people in developing countries are affected by vitamin and mineral deficiencies and therefore more subject to infection, birth defects and impaired physical and psycho-intellectual development.
Zinc deficiencies: magnitude unknown but likely to prevail in deprived populations; associated with growth retardation, diarrhoea and immune deficiency
40 million people living with HIV/AIDS are exposed to an increased risk of food insecurity and malnutrition, espeicially in poor settings, which may further aggravate their situation.

But this is just one side of the problem.

2 out of 3 overweight and obese people now live in developing countries, the vast majority in emerging markets and transition economies.
By 2010, more obese people will live in developing countries than in the developed world.
Under-and over-nutrition problems and diet-related chronic diseases account for more than half of the world's diseases and hundreds of millions of dollars in public expenditure.

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