The 4 Deadly Forms of Malnutrition in Children

Undernutrition in Children Illustration

The 4 Deadly Forms of Malnutrition in Children

Nutritional imbalance in children has been a serious problem since the beginning of time. Malnutrition in children has resulted in deaths, life-long illnesses, and deformation. To address this issue, people must be aware of the various forms of malnutrition.

Child Malnutrition Cases in Indonesia

Malnutrition remains one of the most serious public health issues in Indonesia. The prevalence of malnutrition among children under the age of five in Indonesia is still quite high. Malnutrition in children not only increases the morbidity and mortality rate but can also disrupt physical, mental, and cognitive development, reducing work productivity. Delays in providing nutritional services to children suffering from malnutrition can cause permanent physical damage.

On its path to becoming a middle-income country, Indonesia has witnessed several significant events. Which include a dramatic drop in child mortality and an increase in primary school enrollment. However, with the malnutrition in children that happens daily, it appears that there has been no improvement in children’s nutritional status. Hundreds of thousands of children and young adults in Indonesia seem to be at risk of stunting and wasting and both undernutrition and overnutrition.

An imbalance between nutrient intake and the body’s energy needs is the root cause of malnutrition in general. Malnutrition is typically caused in developed countries by a poor diet, having to consume unhealthy foods with an unbalanced portion, digestive disorders, mental health problems, and alcoholism.

Forms of Malnutrition

Forms of Malnutrition Illustration
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According to the World Health Organization, there are 4 forms of malnutrition. Below are the following:


Undernourished children can indeed be caused by a deficiency in macronutrients (carbohydrates, fats, and proteins). Kwashiorkor and marasmus are the most common forms associated with undernutrition in children. Undernutrition can cause growth disorders in children, such as wasting (low weight-for-height), stunting (low height-for-age) and underweight (low weight-for-age).

  • Wasting is the result of rapid weight loss or failure to gain weight. A young child who is moderately or severely wasted is more likely to pass away, but treatment is available.
  • According to UNICEF, Stunting is caused by chronic or recurring malnutrition, which is usually associated with poor socioeconomic conditions, poor maternal health and nutrition, frequent illness, and/or inappropriate infant and young child feeding and care in early life. This can permanently impair a child’s physical and cognitive abilities and cause long-term bodily damage.
  • Underweight is a condition in which an individual’s body mass index is lower than the normal rate.


Overnutrition or usually known as hyperalimentation is a condition that takes place when the intake of nutrients is oversupplied. This nutritional issue raises a person’s risk of developing dangerous diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular diseases like heart attacks and strokes. Obesity and overweight are the results of an imbalance between total energy consumed and energy expended. In the pandemic, people worldwide are consuming more energy-dense foods and beverages (high in sugars and fats) and engaging in less physical activity.

Overnutrition is relatively uncommon in children of a developing country. Yet, in developed countries such as America and Canada, obesity and overweight children is prevalent.

Micronutrient-Related Malnutrition

Micronutrients are nutrients that the body requires in small amounts but play a critical role. Micronutrients needs are critical to meet because they perform a variety of functions for the body, including the synthesis of enzymes and hormones, as well as playing a role in the proper functioning of all organs and senses. A lack or deficiency of micronutrients can have a negative impact if not treated properly. Based on the data collected by Kompas regarding the fulfilment of children’s micronutrients in Indonesia, there are several facts as follows:

  • 50 percent of Indonesian children are iron-deficient
  • 80 percent of Indonesian children are calcium-deficient
  • 70 percent of Indonesian children consume are Vitamin A and C deficient
  • 60 percent of Indonesian children are zinc-deficient
  • 45 percent of Indonesian children are Vitamin D-deficient

Diet-related Noncommunicable Diseases

Noncommunicable nutrition-related diseases are the leading cause of morbidity and mortality in most Eastern Mediterranean region countries, particularly cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and certain types of cancer. This disease is as well targeting people of a younger age.

Prevention for Malnutrition in Children

Prevention and Treatment for Malnutrition in Children
Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

Malnutrition in children can be prevented by implementing several measures. The government of Indonesia must create a more conducive environment for healthy consumption and strengthen nutrition service delivery systems. This can be done by promoting local farmer’s businesses, provide financial assistance, educating parents regarding this issue and more.

Read 5 Things You Should Know To Prevent Getting Stunting! to know more details about stunting preventative measures.

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