Hunger and Malaria

On Thursday a demonstration protesting hunger in Nigeria was broken up because of littering, a trivial excuse for trying to block attention to a crucial development and health issue.  Action Aid, organizers of the Abuja march said, “Despite the country’s massive oil wealth, one in three of Nigeria’s 140 million people goes to bed hungry.” Hunger and the related issue of malnutrition is especially important to control infectious diseases like malaria.
sscn1268.JPGThere has been controversy about the exact relationship between malnutrition and malaria, but greater death rates from all causes is associated with malnutrition. A recent PLoS review summarized the issue as follows: “Malnourished children suffer in greater proportion from respiratory infections, infectious diarrhea, measles, and malaria, characterized by a protracted course and exacerbated disease. These malnourished children present with diminished functional T cell counts, increased undifferentiated lymphocyte numbers, and depressed serum complement activity.” The review clarified that Chronic PEM was associated with malaria.

The association between malaria and the nutritional problem of anemia is not in doubt, and not long ago we shared findings about diet and Artemisinin-Lumenfantrine (AL), the most commonly recommended ACT. Studies found the need for adequate fat consumption to enhance AL absorption, a major challenge for hungry children who have poor diets with low energy intake.

Regardless of associations, the two issues, ending hunger and ending malaria, come together in the Millennium Development Goals. Both should receive the undivided attention of child health advocates and government policy makers

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