Hunger and Malnutrition

The United Nations World Food Programme reported that around 400 million children around the world are suffering from hunger. Médecins Sans Frontières, a humanitarian relief organization estimated that over 20 million children in developing countries are suffering from severe, acute malnutrition. According to the World Health Organization, almost 5 million children under five die each year due to malnutrition.

What is hunger?

Hunger is our body’s natural reaction that signals we need to eat. We all feel hungry an hour or so after skipping a meal. We feel hungry when we consume less than the recommended meal size. We stop being hungry once we eat enough food to satisfy our body’s needs. Children and teens feel hungry more than adults since their rapidly developing and growing bodies demand more food.

What is malnutrition?

Malnutrition, on the other hand, is the condition when we do not get the right amount of minerals, vitamins, and other nutrients our body needs to stay healthy. Malnourished people can either be undernourished or overnourished. You are undernourished if you do not get enough nutrients. You are overnourished if you get too many.

Malnutrition may be mild or severe and can happen for a long or short period of time. Malnutrition can affect your physical as well as mental health. In many cases, it can cause death.

What are the causes of hunger and malnutrition?

Not getting enough food leads to hunger, and in the long term, not getting enough food can result in malnutrition. However, many people can still become malnourished even if they get plenty of food. This is because what they eat does not give them the right minerals, vitamins, and nutrients. Malnutrition can also be caused by a health condition or disease that prevents people from absorbing or digesting.

What are the health effects of malnutrition?

The symptoms of malnutrition largely depend on the nutritional deficiencies a sufferer has. In general, though, symptoms can include: poor immune function, low energy and fatigue, decaying teeth, swollen and bleeding gums, poor growth, and underweight. Other general symptoms include bloated stomach, muscle weakness, bones that are prone to easy breakage, organ function problems, and dry, scaly skin.

Malnutrition can also lead to Vitamin A deficiency, one of the biggest causes of preventable blindness in poor countries. Iodine deficiency can slow down a person’s reaction time and give him or her problems in paying attention. In severe cases, it causes mental retardation.