Over three million children die every year due to causes related to malnutrition—most of them in low-income countries. The situation is particularly serious in Bangladesh where 40 percent of children suffer from chronic undernutrition, leaving their growth diminished and their bodies weak and susceptible to infectious diseases. The Lancet has called malnutrition the most “desperately neglected aspect of maternal, newborn, and child health.” Yet with the #March4Nutrition and preparations for the Nutrition for Growth summit in Rio this summer, the issue is gaining well-deserved attention.
There is now clear consensus that interventions should focus on the first 1,000 days of life, which is the period from the beginning of a pregnancy until a child’s second birthday. During those 1,000 days, growth is fastest and nutrient needs are especially great. This is also the time when the child’s organs, brain and immune system are developing. The effects of malnutrition are particularly damaging to these, resulting in potentially life-long consequences for a child’s health and intellectual capacity.