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Malnutrition Responsible for a Third of Child Deaths Worldwide
Date:1/17/2008

Report also found it accounted for 11% of international disease burden

THURSDAY, Jan. 17 (HealthDay News) -- A international epidemic of maternal and childhood malnutrition accounts for more than one-third of childhood deaths and 11 percent of the world's disease burden, researchers report.

"The key messages here are that the international nutrition system is fragmented and dysfunctional, and reform is needed," lead researcher Dr. Robert Black, a professor at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said during a news conference Wednesday. "The problems are long standing and embedded in organizational structure, but a concerted effort can provide greater progress and accountability. Progress is possible."

Black was lead author of a special series on maternal and child malnutrition appearing online Jan. 17 in The Lancet.

The issue was hailed by different development agencies at the news conference.

"[The World Bank] does agree with the conclusions in the series. They have huge implications for the architecture of an international nutrition system," said Joy Phumaphi, vice president and network head of human development at the World Bank. "We want to associate ourselves with the report."

According to Kent Hill, assistant administrator for global health at USAID, there are some 852 million chronically hungry people living in the world today, and roughly half are children. Even though many can eat enough to ward off hunger, many still don't get the nutrition necessary for growth and development. Mothers and children are the most vulnerable, Hill added.

The quandary has far-reaching consequences for individuals, societies and economies, the experts said.

"Malnutrition and nutrition as a whole is an economic imperative," Phumaphi said. Nutrition affects productivity as well as cognitive functioning and performance in school. "It also increases health costs and
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