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Malnutritionís Consequences for Development

Malnourished children who survive childhood face diminished futures as adults with compromised abilities, productivity and health. This loss of human potential is all the more tragic in societies with little economic capacity for therapeutic and rehabilitative measures, and worsens the economic plight of their citizens.

By one reckoning the worldwide loss of social productivity associated with four overlapping types of malnutrition -- nutritional stunting and wasting, iodine deficiency disorders and deficiencies of iron and Vitamin A -- amounts to almost 46 million years of productive, disability-free life. By way of contrast, it is estimated that treatment for iron deficiency and anemia alone can raise national productivity levels by 20%.

Poverty, limited education, disease and poor access to quality foods and health services are major contributors to adult and childhood malnutrition. Its underlying causes also include the low status of women in many countries, poor pre-natal care and high population densities. Malnutrition can, in turn, exacerbate some of these very problems, perpetuating poverty, compromising childhood education and straining the capacity of health services to cope with the illnesses and other problems of malnourished populations.

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