Children, nutrition and malaria



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A large percentage of child deaths related to malaria
are attributable to under nutrition and deficiencies of vitamin A, zinc, iron
and folate.
Nearly 550,000 annual malaria deaths are attributable
to underweight in children less than 5 years of age, according to global burden
of disease data published earlier this year.
Mildly malnourished children are 2 times more like to
die from malaria than children who are not undernourished, while moderately
malnourished children are 4 times more likely to die. Severely malnourished
children are 9 times more likely to die… While the risk of malaria mortality
increases with the severity of under nutrition, most child deaths occur in only
mildly to moderately undernourished children.
Widespread zinc and vitamin A deficiencies in malaria
endemic regions contribute to a compromised child’s ability to fight
infection. Zinc improves growth and enhances the body’s ability to respond
to infection, and vitamin A plays an essential role in the immune response and
is believed to be necessary for host resistance to malaria.  Researchers
stress that strategies to reduce the global malaria burden must include
integrated nutrition programs that improves the micronutrient status of young
children.  

A lack of iron in the diet is a common cause of anaemia
resulting from malaria. Iron deficiency can impair physical and mental
development in infants and young children. Even mild iron deficiency can impair
intellectual development. Anaemia is the most common nutritional disorder in
the world.
Symptoms of anaemia include paleness of the palms of the
hands and of the tongue and inside the eyelids and lips as well as tiredness
and breathlessness.
Iron is found in animal foods such as liver, lean meat and
fish. Foods such as wheat and maize flours, salt, fish sauce or soy sauce are
sometimes fortified with iron. Iron-rich foods help prevent anaemia. Consuming
them with vitamin C helps the digestive system to better absorb the iron.

Contributed by Ebuka Ezeji (ebukaezeji@gmail.com).

 

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