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Malnutrition – The Effects Remain – Part II

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Malnutrition does not have one, single effect – it impacts the lives of different people and leaves its traces on generations to come. Part II of the series attempts to explore further ways in which malnutrition has influenced different phases and aspects of lives.

Child Malnutrition

Children who do not reach their optimum height or consistently experience bouts of weight loss during childhood are affected in the long term in numerous ways, and they are at greater risk of infection. Furthermore, they are at a risk of problems such as:

  • Protein-energy deficiency. The most significant types include Marasmus, in which the child experiences extreme weight loss, thin, papery and dark skin, evident hair loss, and pinched facial expressions, as well as long-term apathy. Another type is Kwashiorkor, the symptoms of which include discolored, brittle hair, rashes, water retention, bloated belly and an enlarged liver. This condition, if untreated, can lead to comas and even death.
  • Other effects include a vitamin and mineral deficiency, the effects of which include anemia or low red blood cell count, as well as scurvy, depending on the vitamins needed.

Maternal Malnutrition

Statistics involving maternal malnutrition reveal that:

  • Malnourished mothers often give birth to underweight babies who are 20 percent more likely to die before the age of five.
  • Around half of all pregnant women in developing countries are anaemic. Iron deficiency causes around 110,000 deaths during child birth each year.
  •  Consuming a well-planned pregnancy diet and diet for breastfeeding mother is crucial for the baby’s health.

Generational Impact

The impact of malnutrition lasts throughout generations, such that the effects of under-nourishment continue to influence lives of people in the future. One of the ways in which this influence continues is through a cyclical pattern, such that:

  • Maternal malnutrition has inter-generational consequences because it can lead to a vicious cycle of underweight children and insufficient nutrition.
  • Poor nutrition in pregnancy is linked to undernourishment in the uterus, which results in low birth weight, pre-maturity, and low nutrient stores in infants. These babies end up stunted and, in turn, give birth to low birth weight babies. Optimal maternal nutrition is therefore vital to break this inter-generational cycle.

As we conclude Part II of the Malnutrition series, we hope that the importance of understanding and focusing on issues like under-nourishment and famine is made clear, as their impact is long-lasting and severe.

Sources of Information:

TheConversation: Maternal malnutrition affects future generations. Kenya must break the cycle

HerHaleness: Effects of Malnutrition during Pregnancy

Livestrong: How Malnutrition Affects Learning & Working

Livestrong: Effects of Malnutrition on Children