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Food & Hunger

11 Myths About Malnutrition

1. MYTH: Malnutrition is the same as hunger.

A mother and child getting nutritional advice at a health clinic in Turkana supported by UK aid. Photo from DFID UK.

Malnutrition is not a matter of people being hungry but rather that their diet is lacking in nutrients. A solution to this is to fortify foods with additional nutrients that play a large part in people’s diet.

2. MYTH: Malnutrition is all about being too thin.

Medical staff examine a child for signs of malnourishment in DRC. Photo by DFID UK.

Despite the fact that many malnourished children are too thin, malnutrition is also related to people’s financial situation. For example, nutritious food that contains vitamins and minerals and is required for healthy growth is usually more expensive than less healthy foods such as carbohydrates and grains. One solution to this is to deliver healthy school lunches to students whilst they are at school in order to allow them to focus on their studies.

3. MYTH: Nutrition starts when a child is born.

Haouaou and her son Issiakou, who live in the small village of Mazadou, Nigeria. Their community avoided malnutrition despite drought, thanks to UNICEF. Photo by DFID UK.

Malnutrition in the womb can cause the foetus to not grow properly, which in turn hinders the mental and physical development of the child during the early years of its life. One way to resolve this problem is by providing women and breastfeeding mothers with fortified foods, training and community education initiatives. These all help to raise the level of participation in preventative health programmes.

4. MYTH: The consequences of malnutrition are only health related.

Girls in their playground in Pakistan. Malnutrition can affect a child’s school performance, as well as their health. Photo by DFID UK.

Malnutrition not only has a large effect on health, but also greatly affects a person’s quality of life. For example, undernourished children are less likely to perform well in school, are more likely to live in a worse economic state in adulthood and are more likely to be malnourished as an adult. Ways to resolve this problem are to ensure adequate complementary feeding, encouraging nutrition-sensitive activities (like good water and sanitation) and increasing the capacity of national governments to generate policies to prevent stunting.

5. MYTH: Malnutrition only affects individuals.

Hodon Mohamed holds her daughter outside the nutrition room in Karkaar, Somalia. Photo by DFID UK.

Malnutrition not only affects individuals but also influences mortality, productivity and economic growth. One way to prevent a heightened malnutrition rate after a natural disaster is to deliver specialised nutritious foods to those countries.

6. MYTH: Malnutrition is all about starving children in Africa.

A farmer grows cabbages in the mountains of Haiti.

Even though many countries in Africa suffer from malnutrition, there are many other parts of the world that suffer equally as much. For example, according to recent statistics 44.5% of the population of Haiti is malnourished.

7. MYTH: Malnutrition is not as important as other diseases in the world.

Members of a community farming group work in their fields in DRC. They have received training on healthier eating and nutrition from the NGO Action Against Hunger. Photo by DFID UK.

Malnutrition is actually the number one health risk worldwide. 50% of all childhood deaths are connected to malnutrition. It kills 3.5 million children annually. Many actions in order to combat this have been put in place, for example food rations and nutrition education.

8. MYTH: Malnutrition and HIV are not linked.

HIV programmes in Zambia. Photo by US AID/Zambia on Flickr.

People with HIV may experience loss of appetite and difficulties to ingest food, because of this good nutrition can help to prolong the lives of HIV sufferers. One way in which to combat this problem is by distributing food baskets to HIV sufferers on a monthly basis.

9. MYTH: It’s easy to get all the nutrients you need from food.

It is actually quite hard to obtain all the nutrients that you need from food, to achieve that you would have to only eat the most nutrient-rich foods. One way to help achieve this is to give nutritional coaching to people who are at risk of becoming malnourished.

10. MYTH: Anaemia cannot be reversed.

Food distribution in Bangladesh. Photo by USAID.

The reality is quite the opposite, most forms of anaemia (when iron deficiency causes a low red cell count in the blood) can be reversed. One way to help solve this problem is to distribute a micronutrient powder to anaemia sufferers.

11. MYTH: Fortified foods are GMOs.

Two girls eat bio-fortified maize in Mukushi, Zambia. Photo by Silke Seco / DFID UK.

Fortified foods have nothing to do with GMOs. Fortified foods contain levels of energy, micronutrients and macronutrients necessary to prevent malnutrition. These extra nutrients are added to the food products after they are grown.


If you belive that ALL children should be provided with healthy and nutritious food, then please sign the petition to end malnutrition!