How to Save 3 Million Kids a Year

A photograph of the author, Austin Bailey.

By Austin Bailey

September 24, 2018

How to Save 3 Million Kids a Year

In This Article

  • Malnutrition kills 3 million children every year.
  • The number of malnourished children in Africa has grown since 2000.
  • Child malnutrition manifests in 3 ways: stunting, wasting and obesity

Child malnutrition is the single biggest contributor to deaths in kids under the age of 5 worldwide. Addressing and preventing child malnutrition could save 3 million children every year. Here's what you need to know about childhood malnutrition, what it looks like and how it can be prevented and cured. 

Statistics on childhood malnutrition
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A young Indian girl eats a slice of watermelon.
Aarti Nandan Kisku, 6, eats a slice of watermelon. Aarti's older siblings were stunted as children from malnutrition. Aarti's parents participated in nutrition education as part of a Heifer project, and Aarti is growing strong.

Malnourished children are more susceptible to infections and less able to recover from illness. It manifests in in three different ways:

  • Stunting – a result of poor nutrition in utero and early childhood. Those affected may never reach their optimal adult height or cognitive ability.
  • Wasting – refers to a child who is thin for his/her height but not necessarily short. Wasted kids have a high risk of dying from common diseases.
  • Overweight – While seemingly at the opposite end of the spectrum from stunting and wasting, obesity can be addressed by the same remedies.

While malnutrition manifests in multiple ways, the prevention and cure is always the same:

1. Breastfeeding for the first two years

2. Access to nutritious, diverse and safe foods

3. Good nutrition for mothers before and during pregnancy and during lactation

4. Access to basic healthcare, clean water, hygiene and sanitation services and opportunities for safe physical activity