Development and Growth Constraints - Malnutrition | tutor2u Economics
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Development and Growth Constraints - Malnutrition

  • Levels: A Level
  • Exam boards: AQA, Edexcel, OCR, IB

High rates of malnutrition can severely impair development and bring untold human misery. Poor nutrition can have serious negative effects on development outcomes.

Development and Growth Constraints - Malnutrition
  • It impairs brain development – nearly one in five under-5 children in the developing world are under-weight. 165 million children under-5 suffer from stunting
  • It is responsible for half of all child deaths – 38% of under-five children in the poorest 20% of families in developing countries are underweight compared to 14% of under-fives in the wealthiest 20%
  • Under nutrition causes 45% of child deaths in sub-Saharan Africa
  • Of 44 countries in sub-Saharan Africa, all but two have child stunting levels > 20%
  • It increases the risks of HIV infection and cuts the numbers who survive outbreaks of malaria
  • Malnourished children are more likely to drop out of school and suffer reductions in their lifetime incomes
  • According to the World Bank, “the effects of this early damage on health, brain development, educability, and productivity caused by malnutrition are largely irreversible."

The surge in global food prices has had a terrible effect on the risk of malnutrition in many of the world's poorest countries. It has certainly led to a sharp rise in premature deaths and severe illnesses linked to poor nutrition in countries such as In

The Economic and Human Cost of Malnutrition in Uganda

Widespread malnutrition costs the central African nation of Uganda hundreds and millions of dollars each year in lost productivity, according to a new study "The Cost of Hunger in Africa."

The report finds that Uganda loses around $899 million per year -- around 5.6 per cent of its gross domestic product -- as a result of workers getting sick more often and being less productive because they lacked the right nutrition as children. Malnourished children dropping out or underperforming at school subtracts around $116 million from an economy in need of educated workers. Lower productivity in sectors such as agriculture cost Uganda another $201 million per year.

The country spends around $254 million per year treating cases of diarrhea, anemia and respiratory infections linked to malnutrition. Enough children die each year of causes related to hunger to reduce Uganda's labor force by some 3.8 per cent.

There has been progress in reducing malnutrition but high prices for basic foods in recent years have become a major problem in the fight against endemic malnutrition. Another effect if that high food prices make substitution of unhealthy calories more likely, contributing to global obesity level.

Prevalence of undernourishment (% of population)
Country Data is from 2008
Eritrea 65
Burundi 62
Haiti 57
Zambia 44
North Korea 35
Low income countries 29
Least developed countries 29
Sub-Saharan Africa (all income levels) 22
India 19
World 13
Middle income 13
China 10
European Union 5

Calculating the Costs of Malnutrition

Malnutrition is responsible for 45% of the global deaths of children under the age of five, research published in the Lancet medical journal suggests.

Poor nutrition leads to the deaths of about 3.1 million under-fives annually, it says.

An international team reviewed different causes of malnutrition in pregnancy and childhood. They say the first 1,000 days of life - from conception to two years - have lasting consequences for health.

Malnutrition - which includes being overweight or obese as well as under-nourished - also has an economic impact. According to a recent United Nations report, malnutrition is estimated to cost the world $3.5tn (£2.3tn) - or $500 for every person - in healthcare and lost productivity.

Source: Adapted from news reports, May 2013

Policies to reduce malnutrition

  1. Schemes to promote health and nutrition education plus direct provision of micro-nutrient supplements and fortified foods
  2. Growth monitoring schemes for the newly born and infants supplemented with vitamin provision from community organisations
  3. Targeting cultural norms – in some countries, young girls are often allowed to eat only after their brothers
  4. Cash transfers – i.e. consumer subsidies that can be spent on certain foods
  5. Government subsidies for grain prices and export bans on domestically produced foods
  6. Higher market prices paid to small-scale farmers
  7. Opening up retail markets to international supermarkets where food prices might come down through economies of scale and increased competition
  8. Infrastructure spending to improve access to and improved quality of sanitation and clean water supplies
Why so many people are still malnourished

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