Malnutrition is the single greatest threat to child survival. Each year, 3.1 million children die from hunger-related causes – a staggering 45% of all child deaths globally. But there are solutions to malnutrition.
Malnutrition is predictable, preventable, and treatable, and defeating hunger on a global scale is affordable. No child should die of hunger and malnutrition.
In this section we will discuss: What is Acute Malnutrition; Types of Acute Malnutrition; Underlying Causes of Malnutrition; Solutions to Malnutrition; Action Against Hunger’s Role in the Battle Against Malnutrition; and What is Therapeutic Food?
Acute malnutrition is a devastating epidemic. Worldwide, some 55 million children under the age of five suffer from acute malnutrition, 19 million of these suffer from the most serious type – severe acute malnutrition. Every year, 3.1 million children die of malnutrition.
The human body needs energy and nutrients to function. If food intake is inadequate, the body begins to break down body fat and muscle, the metabolism begins to slow down, thermal regulation is disrupted, the immune system is weakened, and kidney function is impaired.
Decreased food consumption, increased energy expenditure, and illness result in a poor nutritional state known as malnutrition (or undernutrition). Malnutrition is associated with increased illness and death, reduced educational achievements, productivity and economic capacity.
Moderate acute malnutrition (MAM), also known as wasting, is defined by a weight-for-height indicator between -3 and -2 z-scores (standard deviations) of the international standard or by a mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) between 11 cm and 12.5 cm.
Severe acute malnutrition (SAM) is the most dangerous form of malnutrition. If left untreated, SAM can result in death.
Poverty is far from being eradicated. During the last two decades, the number of people effected by extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa has nearly doubled, from 164 million in 1982 to some 313 million as of 2002. Poverty alone does not lead to malnutrition, but it seriously effects the availability of adequate amounts of nutritious food for the most vulnerable populations. Over 90 percent of malnourished people live in developing countries.
Action Against Hunger tackles acute malnutrition using an integrated nutrition strategy. This approach combines the assessment of nutritional status of children, treatment of acute malnutrition, and prevention of all forms of malnutrition.
Action Against Hunger firmly believes that no child should suffer from malnutrition and that acute malnutrition can be overcome.
Every day, tens of thousands of professionals around the world work around the clock to save children dying from acute malnutrition. Action Against Hunger addresses acute malnutrition on several fronts:
Therapeutic food is a type of nutrient-dense food used to treat acute malnutrition in children. Therapeutic foods contain added minerals and vitamins and are excellent sources of protein and energy. Because they are single food sources loaded with all required nutrients, they are an efficient way to help malnourished children recover from malnutrition.