Thousands of people in underdeveloped countries are plagued by the menace of food insecurity. Before we draw a link between food insecurity and malnutrition, let’s clarify what food insecurity means: food insecurity refers to a dearth of sustainable and adequate physical and economic resources to provide people with enough safe, healthy and nutritious food of an acceptable standard to ensure that they are able to lead a fit and productive life. Food insecurity need not be a permanent phenomena; it can affect a region, nation or even a household for a temporary or seasonal period of time. With such uncertainty surrounding the source of the next meal in underdeveloped countries, it comes as no surprise that a vast majority of the total number of malnourished people worldwide reside in developing countries. The total figure as quoted by the United Nations has climbed up to a whopping 840 million malnourished people all over the world. Out of this 840 million, 799 million are concentrated in regions of Africa and Asia.
A number of factors can be responsible for food insecurity:
While most of the aforementioned factors correspond to the reasons behind food insecurity in developing countries, ‘poverty’ is the one factor that also applies to food insecurity in developed countries. The United Nations quotes a figure of 11 million people suffering from food insecurity in developed countries, out of which 11% reside in the United States.
The human body is operated by a wonderfully complex system which needs a wide variety of nutritious foods to function optimally. Without adequate supplies of nutrients, the human body will be unable to carry out its functions smoothly and will become vulnerable to health complications and potentially fatal illnesses. Food insecurity leads to malnutrition, a condition that results from inadequate nutrition intake. According to a report published by the World Health Organization, a staggering 60% of childhood deaths in underdeveloped countries are due to malnutrition. Malnutrition has several adverse effects on the physical and mental health of the sufferer. It leads to chronic weakness and fatigue, heightened susceptibility to diseases, growth failure and a delayed onset of maturation, low birth weight, high chance of maternal mortality, decreased cognitive capabilities and poor learning abilities. Food insecurity and malnutrition can also have severe psychological and behavioral repercussions including intense feelings of anger, frustration, anxiety and helplessness, heightened stress levels, acts of aggression, destructive behavior, becoming withdrawn, poor performance and decreased productivity at work.
Although the international community and not-for-profit organizations have initiated numerous projects in regions affected by food insecurity, there is still a long way to go before the battle against food insecurity and malnutrition can be won. Some countries such as China and Thailand have been making some promising progress in the fight against food insecurity, but other countries have not been so fortunate. In fact, for most countries mainly in the developing world, the number of malnourished people is steadily increasing and the issue of food insecurity is far from resolved. Now more than ever, there is a dire need for swift action against this plague which, with every passing day, engulfs more and more people into its vicious cycle of suffering.