Updated: Nov 10
Hunger is catastrophic for humans of any age, but is most serious when it occurs in young children. Providing assistance to malnourished children is one of the goals of the organization Village Hope International.
Though normally associated with the Third World, hunger is a problem throughout the earth. Nearly 1 billion inhabitants of the world regularly face hunger and another 2 billion receive what is considered inadequate nutrition. Childhood hunger can be lethal, but even those who survive can face long-term effects. Based on official statistics, some 3 million children succumb every year to nutrition-related health problems. Malnutrition worsens the health of the young, making them more susceptible to other diseases. Alternatively, such health problems as diarrhea can precipitate malnutrition.
Children who receive good nutrition will be healthier in general, ensuring normal growth and proper physical and mental development. Inadequate nourishment will reduce both growth and productivity later in life. According to the World Health Organization, some 150 million children under the age of five will be stunted by the effects of malnourishment. Such stunting actually decreased during the first two decades of the 21th century, although increases were noted in areas of Africa.
Malnutrition is determined by the weight of a child or at least an insufficiency in the intake of minerals and vitamins. In one recent year, nearly 100 million children under the age of five were considered to be underweight for their respective ages. Based on their age-to-weight ratios, some 50 million children were considered wasted or severely wasted. In terms of what are known as micronutrient deficiencies, the insufficient intake of vitamin A has increased the risk of infectious diseases among children in many parts of the world. The insufficient intake of the mineral zinc is a major factor diarrhea-related deaths among younger children. Insufficient iodine intake, which can result in inadequate brain development, affects approximately a third of the world's human population.
Several factors have been identified as contributing to malnutrition. Some problems can often be traced back to the prenatal stage of development. Women who lack the proper intake of minerals and vitamins during pregnancy can pass this condition on to their offspring, creating a "cycle" of poor health. Infants who are underweight at birth are more likely to have metabolic conditions that affect their health. Those in lower-income levels may experience inadequate nutrition symply because of their inability to purchase high-quality products. Food that satisfies a person's appetite may also have a high fat and sugar content and thus contribute to inadequate nutrition.
Efforts to reduce childhood and general hunger have included programs emphasizing improved agricultural techniques, maternal care and nutritional education. Some long-term programs involve improved access to healthy foods and clean water. Immediate needs can be satisfied through the distribution of therapeutic foods that are nutritious and easy to use.
A feeding program dedicated to helping malnourished children is but one of the social services provided by Village Hope International.