A child’s right to adequate and appropriate nutrition is stipulated under Article 6 and 24 of the Convention on the Right’s of the Child.
In 2010, an estimated 171 million children (167 million of whom live in developing countries) were stunted. Children who are stunted are at a greater risk of having difficulty learning, playing, engaging in normal childhood activities and being productive members of society later in life. Undernourished children are also more susceptible to frequent and repeated disease and illness due to a weakened immune response, as well as at a greater risk of becoming overweight or obese later in life.
A child’s nutritional future begins with the mother’s nutritional status in adolescence and during pregnancy.
Undernutrition is a form of malnutrition. (Malnutrition also includes overnutrition).
Undernutrition can result from:
- inadequate ingestion of nutrients,
- impaired metabolism,
- loss of nutrients due to diarrhea,
- increased nutritional requirements.
Undernutrition progresses in stages: it may develop slowly when it is due to anorexia or very rapidly. First, nutrient levels in blood and tissues change, followed by intracellular changes in biochemical functions and structure. Ultimately, symptoms and signs appear. Diagnosis is by history, physical examination, body composition analysis, and sometimes laboratory tests.
Undernutrition from micronutrient deficiencies, or "hidden hunger", affects over 2 billion people globally and can lead to reduced growth and cognitive development, birth defects, blindness, and overall poor health. Vitamin A deficiency, iron deficiency anaemia and iodine deficiency disorders are among the most common forms of micronutrient malnutrition.