It is reported that that nearly one-third of the children under 5 years of age are suffering from malnutrition in developing countries. However, from 1970 onwards the figure has been declining but still it is unacceptable.
In the year 1970 children under 5 who were underweight in developing countries was as high as 46.5 percent. This share has come down to 31 percent by 1995.
The main factors responsible for this state of affairs in developing countries have been identified as women’s education, national food availability, women’s status relative to men’s and quality of health environment. There are two more factors which are termed underlying causes; national income and democracy.
Women are known to play a key role in the children’s upbringing in most of the developing countries. They play a primary role in looking after the children during their growing period. Starting from child birth, till the children are old enough to look after themselves, it is the women in all these countries who have taken the responsibility of providing food, clothing and shelter and health care. It is but natural that they should be properly educated to perform the role more effectively.
In countries of sub Saharan Africa and south Asia, national food availability is an important factor because productivity and also agricultural outputs are very low and theses countries are not self sufficient for their food requirements. The quality of health environment such as drinking water, sanitation and access to health care is an important area which has to be strengthened to improve the health of children in these countries.
Malnutrition consists of protein energy malnutrition and micronutrient deficiency. The deficiencies in iron, iodine, vitamin A and zinc are known to cause malnutrition in developing countries. The high prevalence of bacterial and parasitic diseases also contributes to malnutrition.
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