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Malnutrition is difficult to define. It is commonly defined as a nutritional disorder or condition resulting from faulty or inadequate nutrition. Today all over the world, there are so many people living in extremely poor condition that they can't even get enough food to meet their daily energy requirement. They don't have enough money to buy daily food. On top of that war and natural disaster like droughts, flood, earthquake and hurricane make the condition worst by disrupting normal food production and distribution.
Famous nutritionist Jean Mayer (1976), president of Tufts University identifies the types of malnutrition as (1) over nutrition (2) dietary nutrition and (3) undernutrition. When an individual takes in too many calories the resulting condition is called over nutrition. It is the most common nutritional difficulty in high income countries such as the United States. This condition is usually caused by the high consumption of fast foods and sugary drinks. The level of obesity is high in the developed countries which leads to other heart related disease and illness like diabetes, hypertension and atherosclerosis. Although high income people in low income countries also suffer from this type of malnutrition. The diet of the world's high income people is usually overloaded with calories, saturated fat, salt and sugar.
A diet may lack sufficient amount of one or more essential nutrition such as vitamin or a mineral, resulting in a dietary deficiency. Disease such as Xeropthalmia occurs due to lack of vitamin A leads to blindness, rickets. Childhood disease resulting from a lack of sufficient vitamin D leads to deformed skeletal development. Goiter disease results from inadequate Iodine in diet. This kind of malnutrition problem can be solved by proper intake of food and nutrition. Sometime individual's body fails to absorb particular nutrition from the food which causes a certain types of diseases. This is called as a secondary malnutrition. This kind of malnutrition can be cured by proper medical treatment.
While all four types of malnutrition are serious problem in today's world. It is the fourth one undernutrition that is most common and that cause by far the most grief. Undernutrition occurs when an individual simply does not get enough food. This condition can also be defined as starvation, which is the extreme form of malnutrition. He or she is short on calories or protein necessary for normal growth of body, maintenance and the energy necessary for ordinary human activity. Technically it is called as protein- calories malnutrition (PCM). It hardly occurs among the families that have enough income to satisfy their basic need of food, shelter clothing and food. It found largely in the low income families in third world countries and developing countries. Hunger cause malnutrition and sometime death. Hunger related death happen daily, quietly, largely, unchronicled all around the world. Estimate derived from data provided by the food and agriculture organization of the United Nations is that some 10 million people die annually from hunger and malnutrition (1984:55). As cited in a source, “In 2007, 923 million people were reported as being undernourished, an increase of 80 million since 1990-92. On the average, 1 person dies every second as a result, either directly or indirectly of hunger which is 4000 every hour, 100000 each day and 36 million each year, which is 58 percent of all death. While 1 child dies every 5 seconds as a result, either directly or indirectly, of hunger, which is 700 every hour, 16000 each day and 6 million each year which is 60 percent of all child death”.
There is a close relationship between nutrition and health. Inadequate nutrition diminishes the body's immune power response leads to infection. Infection often diminished the body's capacity to utilize nutrition. In other words faulty nutrition can lead to poor health; poor health can lead to faulty nutrition. It is a vicious cycle. The symptoms of undernutrition are low birth weight, high infant mortality rate, low weight for height, low weight for age and low height for age.
The causes of malnutrition are agriculture productivity, poverty and rising food prices, and dietary practices. Uneven distribution of food is also responsible for malnutrition. Most of the world's undernourished people live in a belt that extends around the earth from about 30 degree south latitude to 30 degree north latitude, which lies between the southern tip of Brazil, New Orleans, Louisiana. This either side of the equator contains 65 percent of the world population and 60 percent of the world's farm animal such as pigs, chickens and cows. But this part of the world only produces 20% of the world's agricultural products (University of California food task force 1974:14). Limited technologies are available in the third world countries which lead inadequate production of food. Climate change also affects the food production. Draught, Heavy rain and flood and other natural disasters have great impact on the production. Poor farmers cannot afford expensive fertilizers and accessories at market prize which leads low agricultural production and wages and high, unaffordable food prices. 95% of the malnourished people live in the stable climate region of the sub-tropics and tropics. Reutlinger and his colleagues (1986:1) point out that, “About two third of the undernourished people live in south Asia and a fifth in Africa”. The secretariat of the world food council in their 1988 report also identifies Asia as the region of the most intense undernutrition. Falling world economy and rising level of living lead to the higher food prices and uneven distribution of food. There has been a sufficient food to feed the whole world population but still the starvation and malnutrition exist. They are more related to food distribution and purchasing power. Demand of food is increasing worldwide compare to limited production and uneven distribution which cause higher price of food in the market. According to an article published in New York Times, “the world bank has estimated that United Nations goal for overcoming global poverty has been set back seven years by the global crisis. It calculates that increased malnutrition last year may have caused an additional 44 million children to suffer permanent physical or mental impairment.”
According to Jean Ziegler (the United Nations special Rapporteur on the Right to food for 2000 to march 2008), 58% of the total mortality from the total mortality is due to malnutrition in 2006. According to the World Health Organization, malnutrition is the biggest contributor to child mortality. Malnourished children grow up with worse health and lower educational achievement. Undernutrition effects an individual's educational development by lessening the attention span making him or her apathetic to learning while in school and also by increasing the school days missed through sickness. Malnutrition increases the risk of infection and infectious disease. Deficiency of different nutrition cause different illness. The diseases like goiter, hypothyroidism, Hypervitaminosis A (cirrhosis, hair loss), kwashiorkor, Hyponatremia, anemia, Pellagra etc are more common in malnourished people. Cancer is now more common disease in developing countries.
According to the Global hunger Index; south Asia has the highest child malnutrition rate. India contributes to about 5.6 million child death ever year, more than half the world's total. Half of the children in India are underweight. Malnutrition is not only limited to third world or developing countries, it is also present in developed nations. In United States of America, one out of every six children is at risk of hunger. A study based on 2005-2007 data from the U.S census bureau and the agriculture department, shows that an estimated 3.5 million children under age of 5 are great risk of hunger. South American countries like Haiti, Mexico, Guatemala, Peru and many more are suffering from poverty and hunger. It is estimated that 75 percent of Haiti's population live in poverty. And because of that it is highly suffering from malnutrition. According to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization, about 3.8 million Haitians don't get enough to eat. In addition, about twenty-three percent of all children under the age of five suffer from chronic malnutrition.
How the hunger problem can be solved? Today the current production of the food in the world is good enough to feed 7 billion people compare to the 6 billion living on the earth. So there should be no problem feeding all the people around the globe but still the hunger persists. Uneven distribution of the food is responsible for this problem. Most of the food in the world is produced in the economically more developed country like USA. But less economically developed countries that really want their share of the food to solve their hunger problems, cannot afford the high prices that the farmers from developing country charge and can get from other richer countries like USA. In this way farmer fail to gain competitive price for their produce and cannot sell their product. To solve this problem of distribution, the national governments and state departments should subsidize the purchase of food by developing countries. In this way, the developing countries are able to increase their food supplies, while the farmers are still able to gain competitive prices for their produce.