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malnutrition causes, effects and counter measures in sub-Saharan countries..

Updated on July 17, 2015
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FRANK is a bio-medical scientist at Egerton University and has studied nutrition. this hub explains malnutrition effects to development .


Nutrition and malnutrition in sub-Saharan countries

Sub-Saharan countries (located in lower regions of Sahara desert in Africa) may also known as developing countries are characterized with malnutrition cases such as obesity and overweight in adults while underweight, stunted growth- kwashiorkor, marasmus, and rickets present in children. Note, almost 11 out of 46 countries are near to eradicate extreme hunger and malnutrition. Despite of the efforts and investment in nutrition and nutrition research field, the outcome is zero in this fight. Malnutrition and nutrition disorders are not the only nightmares in developing countries. Corruption, poverty, food crisis, food insecurity, diseases e.g. HIV AND AIDS and poor leadership may play key role in the health and nutrition of citizens in developing countries. Moreover recent events such as availability of water, migration (rural-urban migration), food shortages, and Climate change, urbanization and management of healthcare systems are key important factors that have been affecting nutrition.

Is it true, malnutrition contributes more a third of all children deaths in developing countries? Does malnutrition contribute to almost half of deaths in children worldwide? Deaths in children have increased in developing countries up to almost 58% (2014) from 54% (2001). Believe it or not, malnutrition is the leading cause of child mortality. Children who survive malnutrition are undernourished thus a country developmental threat. Illiteracy amongst women, in children nutrition also causes malnutrition. Many women tend to neglect simple healthy practices such breast breeding, and children healthy feeding programs.

Nutrition is key to good health in the whole world.


What Is Nutrition?

It is important for us to understand the term “nutrition.” Nutrition is the process by which living things-flora and fauna receive food and be healthy. In accordance, to human nutrition is the study of food consumption, utilization and functions within our bodies. In modern society nutrition turns to be building block of our health and thus our lives too.

Good nutrition means getting right amount of nutrients for our bodies in the correct and optimum diet combination. Nutrition is the key for good health development to everyone in the society. Hence, good health is directly proportional to good and healthy nutrition.

Correct and optimum food combination contains-carbohydrates, vitamins, proteins, fats and lipids, mineral salts, fibre and water. Every meal one takes in day must be characterized with each component mentioned for good and healthy nutritious diet.

Taking food that is poor in either of the above types of foods (carbohydrates, proteins, water, fibre, mineral salts, vitamins, fats and oil) results to malnutrition in a person. Moreover, consumption of an excess type food may also lead to malnutrition condition and disorders. For instance, over consumption of sugars, salt, fats and oil results to obesity.

Food and Nutrition

Do you always take a balance diet meal?

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What Is Malnutrition?

Malnutrition is the outcome of bad nutrition, from thus it is a condition or a diseases. The world food program defines the term malnutrition as “a condition or state in which physical function of an individual is impaired to the point one can longer maintain adequate bodily performance process such as growth, lactation, physical work, resisting and recovering from a disease.”

Malnutrition has contributed too many deaths in children and even in adults.

Facts Box on Hunger, Starvation and Malnutrition

  • 12 People said to die ‘of hunger’ every minute in Africa
  • 6.7m People said to die ‘of hunger’ every year in Africa
  • 396,011 People who died due to malnutrition in 2011, according to the WHO

Sources: NEPAD, World Health Organisation

Causes of malnutrition in sub-Saharan countries and Asia.

The following are causes of malnutrition:

  • Poverty.

Poverty has direct relationship with malnutrition. High levels of poverty, makes it difficult to afford food. Moreover, people in developing countries always purchase low quality food products that cause malnutrition due to poverty.

  • Poverty also pins down the ability of farmers to purchase farm inputs hence reduced agricultural output leading to food shortages. Poverty may also disrupt government agricultural investment plans in large scale farming hence food shortages or starvation in a country.

    • Food shortages.

    Food shortage has higher chance to cause malnutrition in developing countries. Food shortages narrows the margin of foods present for one to choose and consume. Food shortages leaves people with no option but instead to use the type of food that is available. In food shortage situation, there is no enough food and there is only one type of food present.

    Food shortage is experienced in many developing countries and sub-Saharan countries.

    • Corruption

    Corruption is another nightmare that lead to malnutrition in developing countries. Many of developing countries are characterized with poverty and corruption. Corruption leads to poverty thus malnutrition. Corruption leaves many poor and wasted in the society despite of their effort to make money and provide food for their families. Corruption and poverty are sole known enemies in societies present in this countries.

    • Climate change

    Climate change is a recent factor affecting food production in many countries including developing countries. Climate change has led to reduced rainfall and increase in temperature hence drought thus food shortages,

    Food shortages has direct links with malnutrition in many countries.

    • Lack of awareness on nutrition.

    Many lactating mothers tend to be illiterate on how breastfeed and diet for their children. Moreover, pregnant women don’t know the type of food and the amount of food to consume while they are pregnant. They end up giving birth to underweight children in most cases.

    Many rural parents are unaware about nutrition and healthy lifestyle practices, this jeopardizes their children health. This subsequently, results to malnutrition in children in most cases in rural areas.

    • Poor health policies and guidelines

    Many developing countries are full policies and guidelines that have completely neglected malnutrition as main nightmare. Due to ignorance to malnutrition its effects and negative impacts are being registered in many sub-Saharan countries rapidly. Thus malnutrition is hitting these countries at higher level.

    • Poor agricultural practices and farming methods.

    Agriculture is the basic economic activity in developing countries yet it is done poorly and unprofessionally. Poor agricultural practices and farming methods such as pastoralism, shifting cultivation and small scale farming results to small agricultural output thus food shortages. Food shortage is a known malnutrition key cause in developing countries.

    • Food crisis

    Food crisis is also another key play factor in food shortage in many countries including developing countries and sub-Saharan countries. Food crisis also turns out to hit the whole world at times. Food crisis is another cause of food shortage in many cases as it results to hunger. When there is food crisis malnutrition cases tend to increase in many occasions.

    • Food insecurity

    Food insecurity causes food crisis and food shortages that leads to malnutrition. Developing countries and sub-Saharan countries, register a high number of food insecure household. Food security refers to the mobility and ability of household to get access to balance food diet and having supplementary for consumption. When a household is insecure it doesn’t get access to a balance diet, thus malnutrition occurs.

    • Inadequate education on nutrition and health food diet.

    MOST of the people in sub-Saharan countries are illiterate on nutrition and food diet as a track to good health. Many don’t appreciate the fact that good health is attained through health and nutritious food consumption. Most of people in developing countries still ignore the fact that some food types such as fruits are basic part of a healthy diet. Due to ignorance, many end up suffering from malnutrition.

    For example, those who ignore proteins in their diet, they end up suffering from complication characterized with low protein energy malnutrition disorder. Such disorders, include marasmus and kwashiorkor.


Impacts and How Malnutrition Hindures Development in Developing Countries


  1. Malnutrition cases disease in both adults and children

In adults:

Diseases present in adults which have been triggered by malnutrition range from simple lifestyle ill health condition to serious diseases such cardiovascular complication.

  • Diabetes- it is a lifestyle ill health condition that is triggered by mainly over consumption of food rich in sugars and even fats. It is also known to trigger hypertension in the aged (old people in the society) nowadays diabetes affects almost everyone with the current food and dietary intake.
  • Obesity-obesity is also a lifestyle ill health condition, present both in children and adults. The condition is triggered by overconsumption of fats, sugars and even proteins which later accumulate in the body.
  • Overweight- many adults have likelihood to get this disorder because they rarely practice. Many are always working to make their ends meet and forget to practice and maintain their bodies. Another factor, is that many are always overfeeding.
  • Cardiovascular complication- this complication include arteriosclerosis, and hypertension are diseases triggered by accumulation of cholesterol in body veins and also blood. Cholesterol accumulation results from oils and triglycerides concentration in blood and blood vessels.

in children:

  • Kwashiorkor- mainly caused by lack of protein in the body. Triggered mainly when a child is frequently put on carbohydrate diet daily with minimal intake of proteins. The child is characterized with huge and large stomach and dry skin.
  • Marasmus- A general body weakness, stunted growth. This conditioned is due to lack of adequate food – hunger. Affects both children and adults, and it’s always present in times of hunger.
  • Rickets- a child is characterized with bow legs. Mainly due to lack of vitamin A and calcium.
  • Underweight children- When pregnant women don’t get enough and correct diet during their pregnant days, they give birth to underweight babies. The underweight babies growth is always characterized with ill health conditions such breathing problems, heart and cardiovascular problems. Some even die.

2. Deaths

Malnutrition has registered many deaths in adults and even children. Half of children mortality cases in the world are related with malnutrition. Moreover a third of this cases are present in sub-Saharan countries.

Deaths trigged by hypertension and cardiovascular conditions still have a basis of malnutrition,


  1. Under development in sub-Saharan countries

Sub-Saharan countries do experience poor labor output because most of the citizens in these countries suffer from hunger and some have conditions such as obesity thus they can’t work easily and swiftly. Malnutrition also results to death of children thus there no youths to provide labor when the working group becomes old.

At times, children experiences many challenges while studying thus they don’t get through their education system quickly and effectively, thus poor work output when they’re employed due lack and poor skills.

2. Slow industrialization and urbanization.

All sub-Saharan countries experience slow industrialization and urbanization due to rampant poverty levels and lack of labor to develop their countries. Most of resources, are invested in food and health sector while other sector such as industrialization and urbanization are abandoned hence, no development or minimal development in the country.


Counter Measures Against Malnutrition

  1. Maternal and child care access feeding practices.

These practices include:

  • Programs related to maternal, child education and health services. Social services are also provided for important children and women development.
  • Programs related to school feeding and take away rations.
  • Programs pertaining women being taught how to breastfeed and providing infants with balance diets.
  • Programs aimed in support of pregnant mothers who are H.I.V positive prevent mother to child transmission.

Examples of such programs include: Senegal has introduced program rapid response child-focused social cash transfer and nutrition security project. The project is aimed at reducing nutrition insecurity in vulnerable children. The project involves protection and promotion, packaging and transfer mechanism.

2. Food household access projects and programs.

This policy involves increase of income, regulating of food prices, food distribution in schools, and food supply to refugee camps.

Examples of these projects are:

  • Food-support projects
  • Livelihood support programs
  • Projects that boost agricultural output
  • Recovery and relief programs

Kenya food security (household food security and nutrition projects) are:

Reduce the government response time to react to national food crisis

Irrigation practices implementation to increase food production

Regulation of food prizes

3. Population control in developing countries.

Population control involves major demographic factors control and regulation. Developing and sub Saharan countries population are characterized with a higher birth rate compared to death rate. These demographic factors include fertility, mortality and migration. Sub-Saharan countries have been working on these factors with an objective of reducing population to increase food security per household. The mechanism used include, introduction of family planning methods, teaching the citizens importance of small families, reducing teenage sexual activities, improving education systems and even distribution of condoms.

Due to large population food becomes scarce thus food shortage directly linking people to malnutrition. If developing countries had the ability to control their birth rate, then population and food as resource will almost be equal thus food shortage and crisis won’t occur easily. Hence, no malnutrition.

This will also reduce, over dependence issue thus savings per household will always increase as a result of small families to feed.

4. Improving water supply and usage in sub Saharan countries.

Countries within sub-Saharan regions example Somalia, Sudan have a likelihood of experiencing droughts, water shortages and even shortage of domestic water for personal use. Improving water supply and usage in sub-Saharan countries will at least supply water for domestic use, industrial use and even for agricultural purposes.

Irrigation will be done, hence more food production in this countries to reduce malnutrition.

5. Fighting corruption in sub-Saharan countries.

Many of sub-Saharan countries have set up strategies against corruption. A common strategy is the formation of anti-corruptions sector and increasing level of awareness against corruption.

In their fight against corruption, developing countries are aiming at distribution of food and resources equitably. In this same fight, poverty might be eradicated.

6. Reducing poverty in developing countries.

Poverty is present in almost all developing countries. It is a fact; sub-Saharan countries register a higher levels of poverty. We now know, poverty has direct play in causing malnutrition in many sub-Saharan countries. If strategies like job creation, encouraging many to be self-employed, industrialization, against poverty work finally malnutrition will end.

For instance:

Kenya has introduced uwezo fund programs and national youth service to employ and empower many youths to reduce on poverty levels, triggered due to lack of job opportunities.

7.Improving political stability in sub-Saharan countries.

Almost all sub-Saharan countries experience political instability. Examples of such countries are Sudan and Somalia. In those countries, hunger and malnutrition is the song without forgetting migration? If only they could improve political stability in these nations all agricultural and economical activities would kick off and run smoothly thus reduction in malnutrition cases. They would also experience low poverty rates and food shortages. When the citizens migrate to other countries they cause food shortages, insecurity, and even poor service delivery,

For example, Kenya has the largest refugee camps. The refuges present in this camps suffer from malnutrition and other health diseases due to overcrowding, congestion, and starvation.

This even makes Kenyans to experience food shortages and some insecurity problems as the refuges migrate into Kenya for help and safety.

Kenya's Nation NUTRITION weeks campaign

Did you know Kenya has introduced NUTRITION WEEKS, every year to fight malnutrition. The campaign aim is to make Kenyans aware nutrition is way to health in their lives. The kenya's ministry of health started this campaign with an objective to pin down malnutrition and nutrition disorders in the country.

The weeks normally start from 31st August to 5TH September. Am really looking forward to participate in the campaigns against malnutrition.Other campaign against malnutrition disorders in Kenya is the diabetes walk and sports day which is normally once each year.

have you ever participated in any malnutrition campaign fight?

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Malnutrition and the future.

Do you think malnutrition will end in developing countries?

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Facts About Africa , Starvation and Malnutrition

  • 1 in 10 Infants die within the first 12 months of life
  • 1 in 5 children suffer from chronic malnutrition
  • More than 12 cases a month of Marasmus or Kwashiorkor are seen in one hospital
  • 1 in 10 children suffers from severe malnutrition
  • 50% of children have a calcium, iron and zinc deficiency
  • 65% of Africans, have inadequate access to food
  • More than 1 in 5 children are physically stunted due to malnutrition.


[1]Brown, k.H. 2003: Diarrhea and Malnutrition, Symposium: Nutrition and Infection, Prologue and progress since1968. Program in international Nutrition, American society for Nutritional Sciences university of California Davis, CA

[2]Chambers, and Conway, G, 1992: “Sustainable Rural Livelihood: Practical Concepts for 21st Century “, Brighton, Institute of Development Studies.

[3]FAO, 2010, the State Of Food Insecurity in World. Rome

[4]FAO 2002: Food and Agriculture organization of the United Nations. Chapters 2, food security.

[5]IDRC, 2003: International Development Research Centre annual Report, Canada

© 2015 frank nangame


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    • frankcofrah profile imageAUTHOR

      frank nangame 

      3 years ago from western

      Thanks tinamarie , for your motivation.

      Malnutrition is a nightmare with a higher destruction degree than corruption

    • profile image


      3 years ago

      You did a great job putting information out for others like myself who do not live where you are and how some people do suffer no matter where they live.

      If your desire is to express yourself through writing do not stop,be patient,people will respond.


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