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In today’s society malnutrition is considered to be a grave concern affecting people worldwide. Then what constitutes malnutrition? Malnutrition refers to the deficiency, excess or imbalance of a person’s nutrient intake and it can be largely grouped into four types.
Includes Micronutrient Deficiencies and Protein Energy Malnutrition (PEM)-PEM additionally includes kwashiorkor (an inadequate intake of protein with reasonable caloric intake along with signs of edema) and marasmus (an inadequate intake of protein and calories, characterized by emaciation) -Micronutrient deficiencies include inadequate intake of important vitamins and minerals in a person’s diet leading to poor health and development, particularly in children and pregnant women
Condition of being overweight or obese caused from an unhealthy or unbalanced diet by consuming excess calories and lack of physical activity-Leads to diet related noncommunicable diseases such as stroke, diabetes, heart disease, hypertension, cancer etc.
Leads to wasting of muscle tissues a thin stature caused from lack of food-Consequentially increases chance of infectious diseases such as pneumonia, malaria, measles, diarrhea etc.
Leads to stunted growth impairing a young child’s development both physically and mentally.
Amongst these different types of malnutrition, broadly two groups are seeping into people’s lives like a pandemic effecting the majority of us. One is undernutrition which is the deficiency in nutrients causing undernourishment, stunting (shorter height for one’s age), wasting (weighing less for one’s height) and micronutrient deficiencies. The other is overnutrition which is an excess of nutrients leading to obesity caused from the surplus of unbalanced calorie intake. Our team will be focusing on the former definition of malnutrition, undernutrition.
There are approximately 800 million people worldwide who lack basic food consumption to sustain a healthy life. This means an average of one in nine people are suffering from malnutrition. Amongst this figure, children are often the ones who suffer the most especially in developing countries where hunger is prevalent. According to data released by the World Health Organization, in 2017 approximately 151 million children below the age of five were stunted, a number of 51 million wasted, and 38 million overweight. Each year roughly 6.3 million child deaths occur and the underlying cause of almost half of them is caused from malnutrition. This alone is costing governments in the billions to sustain healthcare expenses, and supplement for the loss of economic growth and productivity.
To improve and save lives ones nutrition is essential especially for children. A child who experiences malnutrition will compromise their immune system which is an indication that they will be more susceptible to diseases. When a child’s immune system is compromised, the child will experience higher counts of illnesses and longer durations during their growth period. Malnutrition also inhibits physical growth which affects the child’s height, weight, and head circumference, which is the overall development of the child. Development of the child refers to their maturation as development can occur regardless of one’s physical growth. Take for example, learning to speak or walk. This does not require physical growth to take place whereas puberty or development during the time of puberty would.
All of these factors, whether it be delayed growth or development, increased number of diseases, or severity of illnesses it will ultimately lead towards a plummeted quality of life and decreased productivity throughout the life span of the child. Especially when malnourishment occurs during pregnancy and the initial two years after birth it will affect the child both physically and mentally and this likely continues on into adulthood. These children will have a higher probability of being physically challenged, with limitations in learning effectively and more prone to illnesses, making them less productive and unable to become a highly functional person in society. This consequentially decreases develop of the country creating a self-perpetuating vicious cycle as decreased development gradually leads to widespread rise in poverty.
In order to hack this cycle it is vitally important to target one of the core causes leading to decreased productivity which is malnutrition. Amongst the top most malnourished countries in the world, Haiti is currently ranked as number one. In 2010, Haiti was struck by a devastating earthquake with a magnitude of 7.0 which left nearly 90% of their infrastructure buildings destroyed and one fourth of the population dead. To add to this, an outbreak of the most detrimental cholera in modern history emerged in that same year. Then six years down the road Haiti was struck yet again by Hurricane Matthew which destroyed up to 90% of livestock crops and left over 175,000 people homeless.
According to UNICEF, 22% of children in Haiti are currently suffering from chronic malnutrition which is more than one in five children. Three out of four Haitians are living in poverty with an unemployment rate reaching 82%.It is not feasible to eradicate malnutrition in a day yet with strategic implementations based on how other countries went from being malnourished to a more balanced diet, it will be possible to implement the steps they took and apply it to a country like Haiti. Our team decided to adopt the developments which took place in Peru to resolve their problems in malnutrition and identify the social determinants which most effected these changes. The project will aim at incrementally reducing the current state of malnutrition in Haiti by 1% per year, targeted for an overall reduction of Haiti’s malnutrition rate by over 10% within the following ten year span.
In the case of Haiti, the country was struck by multiple natural hazards forming devastating harsh environments for the people. A majority of the physical environment was destroyed by the earthquake, cholera outbreak, and hurricane. This consequentially effected the food supply leading to severe scarcity, water sources were contaminated, basic sanitation critically compromised, and infestations with parasites.
Due to the harsh environment following natural disasters, many are not only left without homes but also without work. In the case of Haiti, 82% are unemployed with no source of income while lacking skills. The few who are fortunate enough to find work are left in dire working conditions.
Easy access to appropriate healthcare service is crucial in maintaining a healthy life. It provides basic access to medical needs, health services, health coverage, nutritional counselling, and quality care. Especially after a natural calamity strikes a country health services will be in higher critical demand.
After an environmental catastrophe wipes away towns and cities within a country, individuals are left helpless and hopeless. The government will need to take active approaches to implementing new programs, support systems, and economical aid to provide substantial help to the people.
More than a third of child death before reaching the age of five suffered from malnutrition. The life expectancy along with the under 5 mortaility rate in Haiti is critial. These children sufficiently lacks in food, nutritions, essential vitamins and minerals in order to grow properly and build an immune system to fight off diseases. Millions of children will become mentally and physically disabled due to inadequate nutrition, and this deficit state of malnutrition leads towards mortality. Even by the age of three, undernourished children will show stunted growth patterns and will have lower cognitive skills. In order to tackle this issue, it is important to understand and evaluate the various health indicators involved:
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