Causes for under nutrition

Lesson 1: Under nutrition – causes and effects

Causes for under nutrition

  • Poverty: Poverty low purchasing power is responsible for underfeeding, leading to under nutrition. Poverty is one of the main causes, since income determines the purchasing power.

    Wide spread poverty resulting in chronic and persistent hunger leads to under- nutrition.

    Under nutrition reduces work capacity and productivity amongst adults and enhances mortality and morbidity amongst children. Such reduced productivity translates into reduced earning capacity, leading to further poverty and the vicious cycle goes on.

    The vicious cycle of poverty is shown in figure below.

  • Population explosion: Increase in population, demands for increase in different resources. The food available per person in a family, a district or a nation depends on the amount of food produced or purchased divided by the number of people who have access to that food. In some countries the population problem is considered to be of great importance and over population, family size and child spacing are considered important determinants of under nutrition.

  • Ignorance and illiteracy: ignorance or lack of knowledge coupled with illiteracy is one of the major factors leading to under nutrition. Food fads and fallacies because of ignorance limits the intake of food.

  • Infections: The relationship between under nutrition and infections has been extensively studied and documented. There is no doubt that common infections such as diarrohoea, respiratory disease, intestinal worms, measles and acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS) are important causes of under nutrition.

  • Hence, adequate health and other related services are a must to ensure good nutritional status of population.
    Immunization, preventive and curative health care, nutritional surveillance, nutritional rehabilitation, nutrition supplementation and nutrition education should be a part of government health programmes.

  • Low food availability and un even distribution of food: At present most developing countries could increase their food production several folds. But still the prevalence of under nutrition is high; because of uneven distribution. Food losses at different stages and lack of adequate storage and processing facilities also influences the availability of food.

    Household food security is defined as sustainable access to safe food of sufficient quantity in all seasons to ensure adequate intake and lead healthy life for all members of the family. There may be abundant food available in the market but poor families who cannot afford to purchase food are not food secure. Food prices and economic status of the population are important determinants of food security, i.e low purchasing capacity and limited access to food are major constraints.

  • Poor post harvest handling of food: Despite the remarkable progress made in increasing food production at the global level, approximately half of the people of developing countries do not have access to an adequate food supply. A sustainable part of the food produced is lost, for various reasons, before it can be consumed. It has been estimated that about 25 percent of the grains produced are lost because of poor post-harvest handling, spoilage and pest infestation.

    Therefore appropriate measures need to be taken to prevent food losses during harvesting, transportation, storage, processing and preservation. It should be an integral component of any programme for the prevention of under nutrition and improvement of the population’s access to food in developing countries. Processing can also add nutritional and economic value to foods. Adequate measures for the provision of safe and quality food should also need to be taken.

  • Policies: Agriculture, health, education, economic and other related policies strongly influence the well-being of the people including their nutritional status.
  • Policies should be aimed at a reasonable or relatively fair access of all people to the eventual resources such as housing, education, food and health care. Policies directed towards improving access of women to resources for income generation, education and health care would particularly improve the nutritional welfare of families and children.
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Last modified: Tuesday, 29 November 2011, 7:41 AM