Economic causes of malnutrition
What are economic causes?
Malnutrition is often caused by underlying economics, i.e. the lack of money. Economics is very important in regards to malnutrition, it allows an individual to purchase nutrients. In many places around the world, a lack of money prevents the purchase of a variety of foods. The lack in variety usually leads to micronutrient malnutrition. Economics also decides the production of food in all countries around the world and the ability of a country to overcome difficult times. Thus economics affects ALL people at ALL levels of society.
Poverty is considered by many as the root cause of malnutrition. This is true to some degree. In both the developed and developing world, poverty often leads to a lack of available funds to purchase food. This can lead directly to malnutrition. In the developing world, poverty is a huge issue in the daily lives of individuals. Poverty prevents people from acheiving any goals.
These individuals are stuck in what is called the "poverty cycle." This cycle leaves an individual in an endless loop of economic shortfalls and unless there is an external intervention they will remain in the cycle.
the poverty cycle 's effects on people can essentially be explained in four parts:
- The lack of money prevents the purchase of any food, let alone a balanced diet. This leads to total starvation.
- Even with some money, it is often insufficient to purchase a varied diet. if an individual has a small amount of money he can most likely purchase only a starch based food such as grain. This is insufficient and will also lead to malnutrition.
- Poverty prevents people from gaining any capital or assets whereby to produce greater amounts of money. In developed countries, people use capital to generate greater amounts of money than they currently possess. However when you are experiencing poverty, all your money is pumped into whatever form of nutrition you can get simply to survive.
- Lack of energy and money prevents people escaping poverty and therefore malnutrition. Simply put, those who are in poverty in developing countries will likely continue to suffer for the rest of their lives.
"In short, eliminate poverty globally and you will remove a large number of those who are currently malnourished."
In the developed world, poverty is also a major cause in malnutrition, although it has a far less reaching effect. It is uncommon for an individual to suffer from total starvation. The reasons for this inlcude:
- Security nets in place in developed countries such as social welfare that usually prevent someone from experiencing total starvation.
- The lack of sufficient funds usually restricts an individuals diet to cheap processed foods which still provide appropriate nutrients but is unbalanced.. These processed foods have lost most of their good nutritional value during their processing, leaving eseential but excess nutrients. Often they are high in fat or sugars and low in micronutrients.
- Many people in poverty have escaped because of the ability to save. Also there are government serivces and organisations which are out there in developed countries to help those who are in poverty. In short, eliminate poverty globally and you will remove a large number of those who are currently malnourished.
In developing countries poor governments can cause malnutrition. Poor governments face a range of issues that lead to malnutrition. Firstly there is lack of money available for agricultural infrastructre and security. This leads onto low food production and food diversity. Secondly the government cannot pay for subsidies to farmers, leaving them unlikely to produce low paying but high nutrient crops. Thirdly there is a reliance on aid shipments from foreign countries, an a reduction in such aid and the country could face problems.
Differences between developed and developing countries which allow malnutrition to prevail in the latter are summarised in the table below.
|Developed world||Developing World|
|Infrastructure||Advanced, with irrigation, harvesters and techniques which allow plentiful crop production even in bad growing conditions.||Basic, often manual labor is the only tool in production of foods. Low crop yields and bad conditions wreak havoc.|
|Safety nets||Subsidies and tariffs on imp=orts allow farmers to grow a variety of crops. They also protect farmers from economic perils and times of hardship.||Often very limited proteciton is provided. In some countries subsidies are provided but this is rare. Leads to less variety in crops.|
|Food production||Food is production is high due to technology. Often food is exported because of the large surplus. Agriculture is also an industry.||Food production is low. Food aid is often neccesary as there is insufficient food produced for consumption. Agriculture is for the subsistence of farmers, not profit.|
To overcome the problems in the developing world, there needs to be an improvement in the agricultural infrastructure. If this is not developed, the food supply will be diminished and they will continue resorting to aid. Once infrastructure and technologies are developed, this will increase the yield of crops and the land. Closing the technological disparity between the developed and developing world is an essential step into preventing malnutrition.
Unicef (unknown date) Goal: Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger http://www.unicef.org/mdg/poverty.html
Awwal, A.A. (2005) The vicious cycle of malnutrition http://nation.ittefaq.com/artman/exec/view.cgi/34/21403
- Setboonsarng, S. (2005)
- Brown, L. R. (2000). State of the World: 2000. The United States of America. From Worldwatch Institute. http://www.worldwatch.org/system/files/ESW020.pdf