Malnutrition means a pathological condition caused by the deficiency or excess of one or more nutrients. The abnormal food intake can come from inadequate food in quantities needed (inadequate caloric intake or, conversely, excessive) or of poor quality (nutritional deficiency or excess fat ...) other factors, including psychological and pathological, are also involved.
In developing countries, the biggest nutritional problem is the "undernourished", due to insufficient caloric intake. But around the world, various forms of malnutrition exist, resulting in particular obesity and serious deficiencies. Malnutrition has been called the "hidden hunger"or "hidden hunger"("hidden hunger" in English) by the United Nations, affecting two billion people suffer from deficiencies in vitamins and minerals, can cause fatal diseases.
Malnutrition must be defined as a pathology, and not as a state. This is a systemic disease with multiple consequences and causes just as varied. The idea of a separation between a quantitative and qualitative approach is both outdated and simplistic.
Malnutrition, either in the approach proposed in the World Health Organization, the humanitarian emergency dedicate themselves, and the various studies on the subject, may be due to several factors, most often associated. Nutritional deficiencies, either quantitative or qualitative (and often both), are a very common cause leading to a state of malnutrition. However, other factors come into play very often.
It may take several examples to illustrate what constitutes malnutrition:
* The Niger, Summer 2005: major cases of malnutrition encountered are mainly due to a major deficiency in food intake, due to the extended drought and the invasion of locusts from cultivated areas, these two causes that led to Crop largely insufficient.
* Liberia, 2004-2005: the food supply is sufficient for people, both through crop and substantial imports, as well as through regular food distributions by WFP. However, malnutrition rates are important, especially in urban areas. The main problem identified is mainly due to inadequate care practices, the causes are multiple. The mothers are not able to provide effective care their child, because of cognitive impairment, post-traumatic stress disorder, a pathological relationship with the child, etc..
* Afghanistan, 2002-2005: If nutritional deficiencies play an important role in malnutrition in this country, it was found that many children refused care (food being understood here in care) that their were provided, due to significant psychological trauma. This phenomenon of refusal to eat has been found in Rwanda after the genocide, and in many refugee camps and displaced whose residents had to experience traumatic events.
These few examples show that a purely dietary malnutrition can not be sufficient, and most international players to fight against malnutrition had to adapt their management by developing parallel programs, ranging from psycho-social stimulation malnourished in their psychological care.
Similarly, we can speak of malnutrition to the problem of obesity. Again, it would be simplistic to consider an inadequate food intake as the sole etiology. There is obesity linked to genetic factors leading to surabsorption nutrient or related to anatomical or physiological causes acquired (acquired disorders of the functioning of the organs of digestion, or mobility, for example). But the inadequacy of food intake is by itself often a consequence of a psychological disorder.
Consequences: State of malnutrition in the world
In 2006, more than 3.5 billion people suffer from iron deficiency, two billion are at risk of iodine deficiency and 200 million preschool children suffer from vitamin A deficiency.
In developing countries, nutritional deficiencies cause diseases such as kwashiorkor, anemia (which attacks the blood and prevents concentration), rickets (which prevents the normal development of bones of the child) or blindness ( caused by deficiencies in vitamin A). The 2004 report from UNICEF and the World Bank assesses terrifying: iron deficiency among infants 6 to 24 months affect the mental development of 40 to 60% of children in developing countries; deficiencies iodine have reduced intellectual capacity of those countries from 10 to 15%, and cause the birth of 18 million mentally disabled children a year, lack of vitamin A causes the death of a million children each year.
In adults, most often affected are women: anemia caused by iron deficiency causes the deaths of 60,000 young women during pregnancy and childbirth, lack of folic acid causes death from heart disease in ten . Deficiencies add up and make the body more vulnerable to other diseases. The economic impact is enormous, the loss of energy associated with deficiencies causing a fall of 2% of GNP in the countries most affected.
Undernourishment affects some 800 million people worldwide, while obesity affects more than 300 million people (see those articles for details). According to MSF, averaged over 2009 a child died of malnutrition every six seconds (more than five million over the year).
The fight against malnutrition is also one of the eight Millennium Development, initiated in 2000 by the UN. The third target of this goal is to halve the number of undernourished people between 1990 and 2015.
Some examples of actions against malnutrition
Action against malnutrition takes into account the characteristics of this disease have been described above. It specifically targets children who are affected first. It is conducted by a variety of structures from international organizations to the humanitarian organizations.
- UNICEF works to prevent the worst effects of malnutrition by giving countries and aid funding to deliver essential micronutrients to strengthen the immune system, such as iron and vitamin A during immunization campaigns or through fortified foods. UNICEF, government, salt producers and private sector organizations are also working to eliminate iodine deficiency, which is the leading cause of mental retardation and brain damage preventable through information campaign on universal salt iodization (USI). In communities, UNICEF also explains how to provide children with good nutrition to people in their care, practicing breastfeeding, for example. In emergencies, UNICEF evaluates nutritional and health needs of affected populations, promotes breastfeeding by creating safe spaces for pregnant women and nursing, provides essential micronutrients, supports therapeutic feeding centers for children with severe malnutrition and providing food for orphans.
- The association ANTENNA TECHNOLOGIES has developed tools and training to produce locally, sustainable and lasting a unique dietary supplement: Spirulina, a micro algae that can be grown locally and provides essential nutrients such as vitamin A, acidic Essential amino, iron, ... In relation to local structures, ANTENNA develops in different African and Asian production areas of spirulina then that access to financial independence through the marketing of about 60% of the production, the rest being distributed in schools, clinics, hospitals, ... To complete, centers of education in nutrition and vegetable crops are now being developed.
See also Nutrition