Hunger still claims lives and scars the lives of those who survive it,
especially young children.
• Malnutrition contributes to 53 percent of the 10.6 million deaths of children under five each year in developing countries. This means that one child dies every five seconds from malnutrition and related causes.1
• Wasting affects more than 46 million pre-schoolers in developing countries.2
• Stunting affects more than 147 million pre-schoolers in developing countries.2
• Malnutrition inhibits the ability to learn.
• Up to 40 percent of all pre-school children in the developing world are anaemic.3
Inherited hunger, which causes malnourished mothers to give birth to malnourished children, is a major impediment to development. Maternal malnutrition endangers mothers and children alike.
• Every year 115,000 (22 percent) of maternal deaths worldwide are associated with iron deficiency.4
• More than 13 million children are born annually with low birthweight, often the result of their mothers having inadequate nutrition before and during pregnancy.5
Low birthweight babies are four times more likely to die in the first week of life from infections such as diarrhoea.
• Low birthweight babies who survive are more likely to remain malnourished throughout childhood, and to face health and learning difficulties throughout their lives. Hidden hunger: vitamin and mineral deficiencies are among the leading causes of death and disability in developing countries, particularly among children.
• Iron deficiency is the most prevalent form of malnutrition worldwide, affecting an estimated 2 billion people.6 Eradicating iron deficiency can improve national productivity levels by as much as 20 percent.
• Iron deficiency is of particular concern among women of reproductive age and children because of the severe consequences on health, productivity and learning.
• Vitamin A deficiency affects approximately 25 percent of the developing world’s pre-schoolers. Vitamin A deficiency is associated with blindness, susceptibility to disease and higher mortality rates. It leads to the death of approximately 1-3 million children each year.
• Iodine deficiency is the greatest single cause of mental retardation and brain damage. Worldwide, 1.9 billion people are at risk of iodine deficiency, which can easily be prevented by adding iodine to salt.
1 Caulfield et al. Am J Clin Nutr. 2004 Jul;80(1):193-8.
2 UN Standing Committee on Nutrition. World Nutrition Situation 5th report. 2005
4 Stoltzfus et al. Iron Deficiency Anaemia in Comparative Quantification of Health Risks. Ed. Ezzati, Lopez,
Rodgers, and Murray. WHO. Geneva. 2004.
5 Fishman et al. Childhood and Maternal Underweight in Comparative Quantification of Health Risks. Ed.
Ezzati, Lopez, Rodgers, and Murray. WHO. Geneva. 2004.
6 Stoltzfus RJ, Dreyfuss ML. Guidelines for the use of iron supplements to prevent and treat iron deficiency
anaemia. ILSI Press. Washington, DC. 1998
Updated: 23 June 2007
Communications Division, World Food Programme
E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org - www.wfp.org
Paying the price of hunger: the impact of
malnutrition on women and children