Malnutrition is caused by a deficiency in the intake of nutrients by the cells of the body, and it is usually triggered by a combination of two factors: an insufficient intake of proteins, calories, vitamins, and minerals and frequent infections.
Such illnesses as diarrhea, measles, malaria, and respiratory diseases tax the body heavily and cause loss of nutrients. They reduce appetite and food intake, thus contributing to malnutrition. On the other hand, the undernourished child is more susceptible to infections. This forms a vicious circle that increases the mortality rates for protein-energy malnutrition
Why are Children at Greater Risk of Suffering Malnutrition?
They are in a period of rapid growth that increases the demand for calories and proteins. For similar reasons, pregnant and nursing women are vulnerable to malnutrition. Frequently, the baby’s problem begins even before birth. If a mother is undernourished or malnourished before and during pregnancy, the baby will have a low birth weight. Then, early weaning, poor feeding habits, and lack of hygiene can bring on malnutrition.
Lack of necessary nutrients causes the child to stop growing and developing properly. There are other contributing factors. Lack of knowledge breeds poor eating habits. Infections also plays a role. There are also social and cultural causes, such as the unequal distribution of food and discrimination against women. In addition, environmental factors cause a decrease in food production. Among these are natural disasters and wars.
Communities contribute to the prevention of malnutrition in many ways, such as by providing nutritional education programs, protecting the drinking water supply, building latrines, keeping the surroundings clean, sponsoring vaccination campaigns, and watching over the growth and development of children.
It is essential to improve the diet of the mother. Pregnant and nursing women need to consume more calories and proteins. Proteins in particular help in the production of mother’s milk. So when there is little food, give preference to women of childbearing age and to little children.
In almost all cases, the best possible food for a baby is its mother’s milk. This is especially so during the first days after birth because mother’s milk contains antibodies that protect the baby from infection. During the first four months or so, breast milk provides all the nutrients that the baby needs in order to grow and develop properly. Gradually introduce fruits and vegetables in a mashed form. Let the baby try one new food at a time. Two or three days later, after it is familiar with that food, let it taste another. Of course, patience and many attempts are often needed before the baby accepts a new food. When preparing such food, remember that everything should be clean.
In summary, it is important to care for children and ensure that they have the required nutrients to develop properly. Good food, a clean environment, proper health care are very essential to preventing malnutrition.