5 Reasons Why Alleviating Global Child Malnutrition Will Lead To A Brighter Future

As our stated by our President at the Institute, Dr. Hirakawa, “Malnutrition is recognized in the Millennium Development Goals as among the most serious challenges the global community must address.”  165 million children are undernourished in the world.  Intervening in the first years of a child’s life to prevent malnutrition leads to necessary benefits for the rest of the child’s life and for our entire society as a whole.  Here are five reasons why advancing the nutritional health of the world’s children will make the world a better place to live:

1)      Children Will Stop Dying From Preventable Causes

There are 11 million children that die from diseases like measles, polio, diarrhea, malaria, and pneumonia.  What do all of these illnesses have in common?  They are preventable, but unfortunately being deficient in essential nutrients such as vitamin A and zinc in the first years of life substantially raises the risk of disease.  For example, zinc deficiency is associated with 800,000 childhood deaths a year from diarrhea, pneumonia, and malaria.  Vitamin A and zinc supplements reduces mortality in children.

2)     Children Will Be Able To Grow To Their Full Potential

About one-third of children under five suffer from stunting.  When children are plagued by Addressing malnutrition to allow chidren to grow to their full potentialproblems such as stunting, iodine deficiency, iron-deficiency, and iron-deficiency anemia, their bodies are unable to develop into the healthy adults that they are intended to be.  Iodine deficiencies cause impaired mental development and physical growth and iron deficiency also inhibits physical growth in children.  Providing children with essential micro-nutrients at the beginning of life gives them the ability to develop into healthy adults.




3)      Children Will Be More Likely To Continue Their Education

Malnutrition affects a child’s performance in school.  Children who are stunted are 19% less likely to be able to read by age eight.  Due to the cognitive effects of nutrient-deficiencies, children become inattentive and unmotivated. The increased difficulty to learn is discouraging to children.  Adults in developing countries only have some primary level education or less because of a loss of interest in continuing their studies as children.  The right nutrition provides children with more energy, full functioning brains, and healthy minds that are better suited to learn.  This, as a result, can spark a child’s interest in continuing their studies.

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4)      Overall Economic Progress

Improving nutrition in early childhood in developing countries is a long-term economic investment.  If children grow to their full potential, they are able to be productive adults as they will be more physically capable and better educated.  For every $1 invested in child nutrition in the first 1,000 days of life, there is a $18 return according to physician Carolyn Wetzel Chen.  A child who is suffering from malnutrition will have a 20% reduction in future earnings which means global child malnutrition could cost the global economy $125 billion by 2030.  Making sure the world’s children have access to good nutrition will help break the cycle of poverty and malnutrition.

5)      An Improved Quality of Life For Children Now And In Future Generations

Our founder, Clay Mathile states, “no child should suffer from the lack of quality food.”  The fact that there are millions of children that are suffering from the effects of malnutrition is a devastating injustice.  The right to nutritional foods to serve the human body should be established for all.  Alleviating childhood malnutrition grants the freedom for individuals to live their lives without being plagued with impaired physical and cognitive growth. This gives adults the potential to be the best version of themselves they can be.  Not only will they have an improved quality of life for themselves but for their children, their grandchildren, and subsequent generations to come.

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Child malnutrition, like identified above, is a global problem that requires action.  By spreading awareness about this particular injustice, we can encourage advances in global nutrition.

The Challenges that are Worth Overcoming to End Global Child Malnutrition

Eliminating child malnutrition is not just travelling to a country, feeding the hungry children, and then leaving that country.  Ending child malnutrition and hunger is about sustainability.  Don’t get me wrong- going into a country and feeding hungry children is benevolent and a feel-good thing to do, but unless we strive to make it sustainable, those children will feel hunger over and over again.

Sustainability is something that many business owners strive for; wanting their business to become a living breathing organism that will live for years to come with an infrastructure built to last.  Sustainability is what top athletes strive for; wanting to make sure they are doing the right type of conditioning and diet to prevent injuries to make their careers last.  Sustainability means the ability to keep going and succeeding during the journey.  In other words, for all of the athletes out there: it means a high-level of endurance.

So what does endurance look like for a non-profit organization like The Mathile Institute working to eradicate hidden hunger in places like Guatemala?  Guatemala has a serious problem of chronic malnutrition in children.  69.5% of indigenous children under 5 have chronic malnutrition.  Half of all Guatemalan children’s growth is stunted, and that number is as high as 80% in some rural communities.  In some communities, the child anemia rates are around 70%.

Guatemalan family homeWhen we dig deeper into why this problem of chronic malnutrition exists, we find it is not just the lack of food.  It is also due to
local and traditional beliefs about nutrition (like feeding young children coffee or broth-based soups), access to clean water, hygiene, food security and the level of education of most nutritional caretakers.

So, to achieve the sustainability to end child malnutrition in a country such as Guatemala takes a lot of evidence, coordination of many factors, and patience.  The Mathile Institute has successfully navigated their way toward sustainability.  The first step is finished.  They have developed a nutritional delivery mechanism, which in this case is Chispuditos®.  Chispuditos® is the nutrient-fortified atol premix developed by The Mathile Institute.  Chispuditos® is cost efficient, has a common local habit and practice, and is relatively easy for mothers to use in every part of Guatemala. Guatemalan school class The second step, proving its efficacy, has also been completed; this product has been scientifically proven to alleviate chronic malnutrition in children under the age of 5 years.  They have also developed a strong evidence base demonstrating that Chispuditos® can work in small to medium-sized community-based settings.  This has been no small task.  Just as it sounds, it’s very complicated to collaboratively generate this kind of evidence in rural, hard-to-reach communities with local and national stakeholders and beneficiaries.  It is just another challenge worth overcoming to be sustainable in creating solutions to end child malnutrition.

The Mathile Institute is now working with the National Guatemalan government to scale this program more widely throughout the country.  This work includes additional delivery research programs, as well as effectively organizing supply to ensure sustainability.  It is important for every man, woman, and child to live a life free from chronic malnutrition, but this initiative is also important for the Guatemalan nation as a whole. The country will benefit because these children will be able to reach their full potential as healthy adults; fully able to contribute to the society and economy of Guatemala. Young guatemalan children eating