No doubt that you’re really hungry and we at SISM Milano hope you will find something nice to eat.
There are however individuals, in particular children, who unfortunately are starving for real, despite the fact that the right to food has been recognized ever since the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in 1948. Article 25 reads:
Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.
Effects of malnutrition on childhood
Malnutrition is a silent emergency, just like an iceberg whose real danger is hidden under the surface. Every year malnutrition plays a role – direct or indirect – in almost half of all global childhood deaths (estimated in 2014 to be 6,3 million children age 0-5 years).
In discordance with what many think, only a fraction of deaths due to malnutrition is related to a direct death from starvation, usually following catastrophic events such as drought or war.
Instead, in the absolute majority of cases malnutrition acts slowly and silently, slowing both the physical and intellectual development of the child, causing permanent deficiencies and a loss of the ability of the body to successfully fend of infections.
Behind the death of a child from diarrheal disease, measles or pneumonia there is often the case of neglected malnutrition.
A condition with many faces
Malnutrition should not be confused with simply undernutrition but is instead due to a combination of factors: Insufficiency of proteins, sugars and micronutrients; underlying infections and diseases; ignorance about nutrition; consumption of non-drinking water; lack of healthcare and low hygiene standards.
Malnutrition can have serious effects already during pregnancy, preventing the normal development of the fetus and also the first few years of the child. There are several different forms of child malnutrition and it is possible to be affected by several forms simultaneously.
It is estimated that the number of children globally affected by stunted growth (chronic malnutrition or stunting) due to an inadequate diet is 161 million – or 25% of the total child population – a high value but in decline compared to year 2000 (when 199 million children were infected, equating to 33% of the total child population) and 1990 when 257 million were affected.
About 99 million children are underweight compared to their age or one sixth of the global child population. In 1990 however this number was at one fourth.
Acute malnutrition (wasting) is the most dangerous form; in its moderate form it affects 51 million children globally (especially in southern Asia) while in its severe form – which carries a high risk of death – it affects 17 million children. Also these forms of malnutrition are in constant decline, but not at the rate we are hoping for.
A fourth form of malnutrition which many might not consider is overweight and obesity. The number of children affected is in constant rise: from 32 million in 2000 to 42 million in 2013.
Source: Unicef Italia
Saturday the 10th of December will be the International Human Rights Day.
Live it knowingly!
If you care about Human Rights and want to better understand how we as medical students (and tomorrow’s doctors) can make them respected join SISM Milano. We await you with tons of new projects where you can contribute and learn to better understand the world around us. You can visit us Monday, December 12, at Statale for an unmissable event or contact us on facebook or email to learn more:
Yasanthi : firstname.lastname@example.org
Translated by Martin Plymoth, SCORP Ass.