Today, across the world, malnutrition –an aggravating cofactor in certain illnesses– is the primary cause of death in children under the age of 5. And this is particularly true in Africa.
Diarrhoea, respiratory infections, malaria, measles… the risk of dying from these diseases is in fact twice as high among malnourished children. Dr Mathilde Berthelot of Médecins sans Frontières explains: “chronic malnutrition in children constitutes the greatest problem in developing countries. Yet the learning difficulties and mental retardation that affect these little ones could easily be avoided if they received the vitamins and micronutrients they need during the first two years of life.”
After this point however, “the consequences are too often irreversible. Iodine and micronutrient deficiencies affect their ability to learn, and later, to work”. A number of studies have shown that infantile malnutrition costs the local economy dear. “Losses can be as high as 8% of Gross Domestic Product (GDP)”, states Dr Berthelot.
“There is therefore an urgent need to feed these children. Of course, the World Food Programme (WFP) distributes rations but they are not really suitable, she points out. Instead of these flours and plant-based proteins, what is needed is animal protein and milk. But that costs. We need 300 million dollars to achieve that.” Three hundred million to save 3.5 million children each year across the world. Which is less than 65 euros per child…
Source : Santé Sud 24 mars 2009 ; 3èmes Journées provençales de la santé humanitaire, novembre 2008
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