Hunger and malnutrition is the gravest single threat to the world's public healthand malnutrition is by far the biggest contributor tochild mortality,present in half of allcases. Underweight births and inter-uterine growth restrictions cause 2.2 million childdeaths a year. Poor or non-existent breastfeeding causes another 1.4 million. Other deficiencies, such as lack of vitamin A or zinc, for example, account for 1 million.Malnutrition is estimated to contribute to more than one third of all child deaths, althoughit is rarely listed as the direct cause. Lack of access to highly nutritious foods, especiallyin the present context of rising food prices, is a common cause of malnutrition. Poor feeding practices, such as inadequate breastfeeding, offering the wrong foods, and notensuring that the child gets enough nutritious food, contribute to malnutrition. Infection – particularly frequent or persistent diarrhea, pneumonia, measles and malaria – alsoundermines a child's nutritional status.Malnutrition is a general term for amedical conditioncaused by an improper or insufficientdiet. It most often refers to undernutrition resulting from inadequateconsumption, poor absorption, or excessive loss of nutrients, but the term can alsoencompassovernutrition, resulting from overeating or excessive intake of specificnutrients. An individual will experience malnutrition if the appropriate amount of, or quality of nutrientscomprising ahealthy dietare not consumed for an extended period of time. An extended period of malnutrition can result instarvation,disease, and infection.
Undernutrition is the lack of sufficient nutrients to maintain healthy bodilyfunctions and is typically associated withextreme povertyin economicallydevelopingcountries. It is a common cause of reduced intelligencein parts of the world affected byfamine.Malnutrition is the result of inappropriatedieting,overeatingor the absence of a"balanced diet". (eg. as indicated by increasing levels of obesity).As of 2008, malnutrition continues to be a worldwide problem, particularly inlesser developed countries. According to theFood and Agriculture Organizationof theUnited Nations, "850 million people worldwide were undernourished in 1999 to 2005,the most recent years for which figures are available" and the number of malnourished people has recently been increasing. Malnutrition can also be a result of unhealthy bodiesnot being able to retain the micronutrients and protein included in their diets. An orangeawareness ribbonis used to raise awareness of malnutrition in the world. The FAOcalculates undernourishment by comparing the amount of food available in a country atnational level with how many people live in the country.The number of undernourished people (million) in 2001-2003, according to Foodand Agriculture of the UN are the following arranged from highest to lowest; India with217 million, China with 150 million, Bangladesh with 43.1 million, Democratic Republicof Congo with 37.0 million, Pakistan with 35.2 million, Ethiopia with 31.5 million,Tanzania with 16.1 million, Philippines with 15.2 million, Brazil with 14.4 million,Indonesia with 13.8 million, Vietnam with 13.8 million, Thailand with 13.4 million, Nigeria with 11.5 million, Kenya with 9.7 million, Sudan with 8.8 million, Mozambiquewith 8.3 million, North Korea with 7.9 million, Yemen and Madagascar with 7.1 million,
Colombia with 5.9 million, Zimbabwe with 5.7 million, Mexico and Zambia with 5.1million, and Angola with 5 million. This table measures "undernourishment", as defined byFAO, and represents the number of people consuming (on average for years 2001 to2003) less than the minimum amount of food energy (measured in kilocalories per capita per day) necessary for the average person to stay in good health while performing light physical activity.Some environmentalists claim that the fundamental issue causing malnutrition isthat thehuman population exceedsthe Earth'scarrying capacity; however,Food Firstraises the issue of food sovereigntyand claims that every country (with the possibleminor exceptions of some city-states) has sufficient agricultural capacity to feed its own people, but that the "free trade" economic order associated with such institutions as theInternational Monetary Fund(IMF) and theWorld Bank prevent this from happening. Atthe other end of the spectrum, the World Bank itself claims to be part of the solution tomalnutrition, asserting that the best way for countries to succeed in breaking the cycle of poverty and malnutrition is to build export-led economies that will give them thefinancial means to buy foodstuffs on the world market.One policy adopted in recent decades to alleviate world malnutrition isfood aid,i.e. the physical donation of food from rich to poor countries. From the rich donor countries' point of view, this is a suitable way to reduce excess supply created bydomesticagricultural subsidies,stabilizing farm prices in rich countries, even if the costof supplying the food to its final beneficiaries is often disproportionately high. Food aidmay be provided for short-term emergencies (natural disasterslike earthquakes, tsunamis,