Protein energy malnutrition (PEM) is undoubtedly a challenge for low-income countries and is a significant factor in the death of 4 million children under the age of five in sub-Saharan Africa. Iron deficiency alone is a contributing factor in over 20 percent of post-birth maternal deaths in Africa. Up to half a million vitamin A deficient children go blind every year, half of them dying within a year of losing their sight; and iron deficiency is damaging the mental development of 40–60 per cent of children in developing countries.
Most worryingly, there is mounting evidence that the damage caused by early undernutrition is irreversible after the age of two. Expectant mothers and young children are most sensitive to the deficiency of micronutrients as their bodies can be severely affected by the lack of production of micronutrient-based enzymes and hormones crucial for their growth and development.
Micronutrient deficiency statistics
- 1.02 billion people in the world suffer from undernutrition — a serious form of malnutrition.
- 99 percent of undernourished people live in developing countries
- More than 500,000 child deaths every year are linked to lack of vitamin A.
- More than 20 per cent of children under five in developing countries suffer from iron deficiency-related anaemia.
- 40–60 per cent of children in developing countries have impaired mental development due to iron deficiency.
- 2 billion people worldwide are iodine-deficient.
- 176,000 people die from diarrhoea linked to zinc deficiency each year.
- 406,000 people die from pneumonia linked to zinc deficiency each year.
Economic costs of undernutrition
- US$20–30 billion is what undernutrition is estimated to cost economic development each year.
- 12 percent reduction in lifetime earnings in Zimbabwe is attributable to school years lost to malnutrition.
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