MADAGASCAR, where the consequences of hunger create clear signs on children

Published: 05/12/2023

Malnutrition is a drama that afflicts many areas of the planet where poverty, poor hygienic conditions and an adverse climate make development difficult. An example is certainly Madagascar, one of the poorest areas in the world, where the consequences of hunger are very evident on the growth of children, who are sometimes smaller than they should be for their age. This condition is referred to as 'stunting', i.e. stunted growth due to malnutrition, whereby e.g. eight-year-old children are 4-5 years old.

Malnutrition starts already from weaning, which is too early and poor in nutrients, done with only water and manioc, the staple food grown locally together with vegetables such as avocados, sweet potatoes and maize. There, people have very little noble protein, mostly from milk and zebu meat only once a year.

Poor nutrition of pregnant mothers also affects the child as their milk is not sufficient to feed them adequately, causing serious physical and mental repercussions, with learning, concentration and memorisation difficulties and little ability to perform physically and intellectually demanding tasks. The WHO World Health Organisation describes stunting as one of the greatest obstacles to human development globally, because in addition to health problems such as anaemia and delayed development perpetuated from generation to generation, the education and working capacity of the future adult is also compromised.

Foods of animal origin with a high nutritional value are strongly recommended for children suffering from chronic malnutrition, and the WHO, in its document on child nutrition, reiterates the importance of iron, which should ideally come from meat, because plant-based foods do not provide enough iron and zinc to meet all the needs of a child aged 6-23 months.

The document states that unfortified plant foods provide insufficient amounts of some key nutrients, so only the inclusion of foods of animal origin can fill the gap and therefore they should be consumed daily.

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