Malnutrition, at its core, is a dietary deficiency that results in poor health conditions. We typically think of malnutrition as it relates to children not eating enough of the right foods. It can also occur when children eat too much of the wrong foods. Sadly, these combined contribute to more than 170 million children failing to reach their full potential due to poor nutrition. These are two major factors that contribute to malnutrition in children.
Poor Quality of Diet: Malnutrition can occur in children of all ages, but young children are the most vulnerable. The World Health Organization has stated that malnutrition is the single most dangerous threat to global public health. They estimate that malnutrition is the underlying cause of 3.1 million child deaths each year and leads to lasting damage for millions of other children. Malnutrition makes children more vulnerable to severe diseases. Chronic malnutrition or stunting when children are too short for their age because they have not been adequately nourished, received inadequate care and or live in unhygienic environments can leave a devastating and permeant impact on a child's physical and cognitive capabilities.
Poor Maternal Health: The largest window of opportunity for a child's health occurs in the first 1,000 days, from the start of a woman's pregnancy to her child's second birthday. Mothers who are malnourished during their pregnancy can experience complications giving birth. Many children are born small because their mothers are undernourished. Severely malnourished mothers can also have trouble breastfeeding their infants. We know that breastfeeding for the first six months of a child's life has health benefits that extend into adulthood. However, if a mother is too malnourished to breastfeed, these health benefits may not be passed on and a child can be at risk for malnutrition.