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Nutrition: 10 Reasons To Face The Challenge

Here are ten reasons why the world should face the challenge of ensuring that all the world's inhabitants receive adequate nutrition:

1. Save lives
Poor nutrition is the largest single contributing factor to child mortality, more than HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria combined.  It is the underlying cause of more than one-third of deaths of children under five. That's 3.5 million a year.
2. It’s doable
We have the knowledge, ability and means to prevent child undernutrition in developing countries. According to the World Bank, US$3.6 billion would give all the undernourished small children in the world the nutritious foods they need.

Key nutrition documents

All the facts and figures given on this page come from these three documents, which are recommended if you want to know more about nutrition.

UNICEFTracking Progress on Child and Maternal Nutrition (November 2009)

World BankScaling Up Nutrition: What will it cost? (December 2009)

The Lancet -  ‘Maternal and Child Undernutrition’ (January 2008) 

young boy smiling and eating his wfp school meal

3. Irreversible effects
Without the right nutrition in the first two years of life, a child’s physical and mental development is compromised irreversibly. This is recognised by medical science and is stated explicitly in an often-cited 2008 article in The Lancet
4. Key in emergencies
Getting vital nutrients to the hungry in emergencies means you can save more lives. After an earthquake such as the one in Haiti recently the threat of malnutrition is always lurking as people struggle to find food. Read story
5. Stave off disease
Malnourished bodies are more vulnerable to diseases like malaria and tuberculosis. In fact, the health effects of undernutrition are responsible for more than one-third of childhood deaths and 11 percent of the world's disease burden.
6. Prevention best
Acting before malnutrition becomes severe makes sense. It costs  $40-80 per child, per year, for a complementary food intervention to prevent it.  Compare that to the $200 it costs to treat just one episode of severe malnourishment.
7. Reduce stunting
Chronic undernourishment often results in stunting – or lower than average growth. It afflicts nearly 200 million children in the developing world (UNICEF), and many more are at risk.
8. The economic cost
Malnutrition has a significant economic cost – one study of Central America and the Dominican Republic found that economic losses due to child undernutrition cost an estimated $6.7 billion in one year alone, representing up to 11.4 percent of a nation’s GDP.
9. New products
There is a range of simple solutions now available for fighting malnutrition. For example, micronutrient powders, or ‘Sprinkles’, are sachets containing a powder that can be sprinkled onto food to ensure people get all the micronutrients they need. They cost a few cents each. Photo gallery
10. Building foundations
Combating malnutrition means ensuring that those in the next generation – the very future of our planet – are able to reach their full potential by having healthy minds and bodies.