Malnutrition: global pandemic affects one third of world’s population

By: Adrian Cruce

Malnutrition has become the standard way of living around the world, according to the 2016 Global Nutrition Report, and now affects a third of the global population.

The report has claimed that the world’s governments are failing to combat a worldwide health epidemic which is leaving an increasing number of people suffering from diet-related conditions like anaemia, stunting, heart disease and type two diabetes.

The world is, however, split into two very distinct nutritional types – those who are undernourished and those who are overweight. The report also found that the number of children under the age of five who are overweight is now approaching the number of people suffering from wasting or acute malnutrition.

Greater risks for children

According to the report, there are not many challenges that the world has to deal with and that have the scale of malnutrition. This is one condition that actually affects close to 35% of all people.

Malnutrition can manifest itself in various ways. You surely saw many pictures of poor children that do not manage to grow and develop properly. We also see people that are very thin and that can easily end up with skin or even bone infections. The blood can contain way too much of the bad nutrients and there is a deficiency of some highly important minerals and vitamins that are vital for proper development.

Diet and malnutrition are currently huge risk factors that affect the entire world and that can lead to disease. All countries need to be aware of the problems that can appear because of malnutrition.

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 Fixing a public health emergency

In a public health emergency, one of the few solutions is education. But it’s a solution that countries are reluctant to spend money on.

Looking at the budget of 24 countries, the report found that governments spent, on average, less than two per cent on reducing undernutrition, while parts of Africa and Oceania have consistently failed to address the problems associated with a poor diet.

The new colonialism

Many of these issues boil down to how food supplies are distributed around the world, with a vast majority of grains and other foodstuffs held in the western world. It’s a form of colonialism caused by the free market where, after exploiting developing nations for cheap labour and resources, more prosperous countries refuse to share their spoils.

A large amount of this neo-colonialist exploitation doesn’t, however, stem from governments themselves, but major corporations who utilise cheap labour before moving to another country that offers them a better deal.

We’re dealing with a global catastrophe that’s been accidentally nurtured by the greed and brutality of unfettered free market capitalism. None of this, however, makes the nutritional habits of the many a lost cause. Along with nutrition courses (which are easily accessed online) and government advice, many western countries supply less affluent citizens with food that is well within nutritional standards.

A political choice

But to reduce the pandemic of diabetes and stunting, greater political engagement (and investment) is vital, as well as greater cooperation between developing and developed nations.

The co-chair of the report Laurence Haddad said, “Where leaders in government, civil society, academia and business are committed – and willing to be held accountable – anything is possible.

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“Despite the challenges, malnutrition is not inevitable; ultimately it is a political choice: one which we need leaders across the world to make.”