The causes of malnutrition are multiple, complex and often closely intertwined. These include:
Inequalities and exclusion foster malnutrition. Around the world, malnutrition primarily affects people who are disadvantaged for a variety of reasons - for example, because of their financial situation, where they live or where they come from. Where a child lives determines whether local services, educational facilities or food are available to him or her. In addition, the place of residence determines cultural and social practices, income - and ultimately the nutritional situation. Malnutrition, for example, particularly affects children growing up in rural areas or in urban slums.
Poverty affects almost all aspects of life, such as access to education or health services, and is one of the main drivers of malnutrition. A family's financial situation almost always has an important impact on a child's nutrition. Low-income families often rely on low-cost, lower-quality, and less nutritious food. Children from low-income families are much more likely to suffer from growth and developmental problems. A large proportion of all children under age 5 who die from malnutrition come from low- and middle-income countries. And even within higher-income countries, children from poorer households are at much greater risk of dying from malnutrition than children from wealthier families.
Conflict is a significant driver of malnutrition. They are partly responsible for the fact that the number of hungry people has been on the rise again for several years. In 2018 alone, more than 250 million people worldwide suffered from acute hunger. In Yemen, approximately 85,000 children died from extreme hunger between April 2015 and October 2018 - far more than from bullets or bombs. More than three-quarters of the more than 150 million children who are not age-appropriate live in conflict zones. Conflict often leads to a breakdown in supply structures: crop failures accumulate, food cannot be delivered and becomes increasingly expensive. At the same time, humanitarian aid does not reach its target or meet people's needs.
The effects of climate change are becoming increasingly noticeable in the form of extreme weather events which have a rising impact on malnutrition. Increasingly frequent disasters often cause prolonged food instability. For example, while the Horn of Africa was affected by drought every 8 to 10 years in the past, the region now suffers from extreme and prolonged droughts much more frequently. Mozambique was hit by two cyclones in just six weeks in the first half of 2019. The destruction of local infrastructure, crop failures, water shortages and dying livestock that often accompany disasters are just some of the consequences that lead to acute and chronic hunger.