A substantial public health concern is malnutrition. Millions of individuals worldwide have been impacted by it, especially in underdeveloped nations. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), “malnutrition is an inadequate or excessive nutritional intake, an unbalanced intake of vital nutrients, or poor nutrient utilization.” Being overweight and undernutrition is the double burden of malnutrition. There are four general types: micronutrient deficiencies, underweight, stunting, and wasting (WHO, 2023). Malnutrition has a parlous negative effect since it can result in stunted development, a weaker immune system, cognitive impairment, and even mortality in young children under five(Hien & Kam, 2008). Stunting disproportionately affected 21.9% of children under 5, with 7.3% stunted. The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the problem of malnutrition among vulnerable populations, with an estimated 149 million children under five suffering from chronic malnutrition and 49 million being malnourished (WHO, 2023).
Malnutrition is a complicated problem brought on by restricted healthcare access, a lack of readily available nutrient-rich food, poor personal hygiene, and poverty. It can lead to malnutrition due to a lack of essential vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients(FN et al., 2002). WHO estimates that malnutrition causes 45% of all child fatalities globally. Children who lack proper nutrition are more prone to illnesses and diseases, and their physical and cognitive development can be significantly impaired. Governments, other organizations, and NGOs are working to address malnutrition by providing access to nutritious food through various programs, such as cash transfer programs, food fortification, and nutrition education programs. The encouragement of breastfeeding is one of the best approaches to combat malnutrition. Breast milk provides infants with essential nutrients during the first 6 months of life and can help stave against illnesses and infections. Supporting breastfeeding can lower the risk of malnutrition and enhance the health outcomes of children(Scherbaum & Srour, 2016). Food fortification is another strategy for combating malnutrition. By rectifying micronutrient deficiencies, overall health outcomes can improve by fortifying staple meals with necessary vitamins and minerals(Chadare et al., 2019). Iodine deficiency illnesses, which can result in goiter and mental impairment, can be prevented, for instance, by adding iodine to salt, a standard practice in many nations. Fortifying staple foods with essential nutrients can improve health outcomes for vulnerable populations, such as young children, pregnant women, and neural tube defects, and help to prevent anemia. The cash transfer strategy, as used in Brazil and Mexico, might be beneficial for addressing malnutrition(Hoddinott & Bassett, 2008). These initiatives provide low-income households with money or vouchers to help them buy food and other necessities. Education is also critical in addressing malnutrition, as nutrition education programs can help raise awareness about healthy eating and dispel myths and misconceptions about nutrition. Healthcare providers can identify and treat malnutrition and provide nutrition education and counseling to help individuals and families make healthier food choices.
Malnutrition raises the risk for mothers, newborns, kids, and teenagers, and inequality enhances this likelihood. Optimizing nutrition early in life can help ensure long-term benefits and low productivity and economic growth can lead to poverty and illness. More effort is needed to solve this issue. Governments, NGOs, and other organizations must work together to address malnutrition by promoting breastfeeding, fortifying staple foods, providing education, providing cash transfer programs, investing in nutrition, and other options that can also consider and implement.
Chadare, F. J., Idohou, R., Nago, E., Affonfere, M., Agossadou, J., Fassinou, T. K., Kénou, C., Honfo, S., Azokpota, P., & Linnemann, A. R. (2019). Conventional and food‐to‐food fortification: An appraisal of past practices and lessons learned. Food Science & Nutrition, 7(9), 2781-2795.
FN, K., JM, M., MM, K., MA, M., & KK, Z. (2002). Prevalence and risk factors of malnutrition. J. Natl. Inst. Public Health, 51, 1.
Hien, N. N., & Kam, S. (2008). Nutritional status and the characteristics related to malnutrition in children under five years of age in Nghean, Vietnam. Journal of Preventive Medicine and Public Health, 41(4), 232-240.
Hoddinott, J., & Bassett, L. (2008). Conditional cash transfer programs and nutrition in Latin America: assessment of impacts and strategies for improvement. Available at SSRN 1305326.
Scherbaum, V., & Srour, M. L. (2016). The role of breastfeeding in the prevention of childhood malnutrition. Hidden hunger, 115, 82-97.
Aneela Ilyas, MScN student at the School of Nursing and Midwifery, The Aga Khan University, Karachi, Pakistan. She has worked as Instructor NES at Pakistan Kidney and Liver Institute & Research Center and served as PHNS in the School of Nursing and Midwifery DHQ Hospital, Narowal. She has also worked as Research Associate for the Global Fund on Anti-Retroviral Therapy compliance with Nur Centre for Research & Policy and Nutrition Officer under IRMNCH Program.