Five myths about
malnutrition

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Too many children are in danger because they don’t have the food they need to live and grow. By taking the FAST24 challenge – where you fast for 24 hours to raise vital funds for children in danger of malnutrition –  you are helping Unicef protect these children from hunger.

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Despite advances in child health and nutrition, there are still some commonly-held myths and misunderstandings around malnutrition. We set out to debunk some of these myths and find out more about malnutrition, and how we can prevent it.

Here are five myths around malnutrition that we’ve busted – you may be surprised by what you find out:

Myth One:

Malnutrition is about being too thin

When asked to visualise what a malnourished child looks like, most people will picture “wasting” – when a child looks very thin and is underweight for their height. However, malnutrition also presents itself through “stunting”, which is when a child has a shorter than average height due to lack of appropriate nutrition.

Your fundraising will help us treat malnutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, the most critical time in a child’s development. Without enough of the nutrients they need, their bodies and brains don’t develop the way they should. Unicef provides 80% of the world’s life-saving emergency food. We help mothers and communities keep their children healthy and well nourished. By treating malnutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life, Unicef has helped cut the number of children badly affected by stunting by nearly 100 million since 1990.

Myth Two:

When a child is nourished back to health there will be no long-lasting damage

A malnourished child can suffer neurological damage. Brain damage is one of many health issues caused by malnutrition, and it can lower IQ, resulting in learning difficulties for some children. The money you raise will help Unicef work with mothers to give their children the best start in life by encouraging exclusive breastfeeding for at least the first six months after birth.

Myth Three:

Malnutrition is not linked to illness

Malnutrition actually puts children’s immune systems at risk. Children who are malnourished are more likely to die from common childhood ailments, like diarrhoea and respiratory illnesses. Therefore by combating malnutrition we are simultaneously addressing some of the underlying causes of other illnesses.

The money you raise will help us continue our work with parents, guardians and health care workers to help children receive all the vitamins, minerals and nutrients they need to grow, develop, stay healthy and reach their full potential.

Myth four:

Malnutrition isn't fatal

Every 12 seconds, a child dies from causes linked to malnutrition. Every year, malnutrition is the underlying cause of nearly half of the 5.9 million deaths of children under five. Unicef works to ensure health workers are trained to identify cases of severe acute malnutrition and provide life-saving food and medical care.

Myth Five:

The consequences of malnutrition are only health-related

Malnutrition not only has a huge impact on a child’s health, but also greatly affects their quality of life. For example, undernourished children are less likely to perform well in school, and are more likely to live in a worse economic state. The money you raise will help Unicef’s work to break the cycle of malnutrition in Liberia, helping us to supply micronutrient supplements that contain the essential building blocks of healthy brains, bones and bodies.

How many of these myths did you recognise? If you feel inspired to help us combat deadly malnutrition, take the Fast24 challenge and join us in working towards a world where children can grow up healthy and safe, no matter where they live. 

Take the FAST24 challenge

Register today