6.4  Causes of malnutrition

This section looks at possible causes of malnutrition and asks you to consider in particular the level of malnutrition in your community.

The causes of malnutrition can be very complex. Malnutrition is influenced by many factors acting at multiple levels. These factors often act in a continuous cycle and include dietary intake issues, diseases, food insecurity, inadequate maternal and child health care and sanitation services. Illiteracy and poverty may also influence the food intake of people in your community and become causes of malnutrition.

Activity 6.1  Identifying causes of malnutrition in your community

Select a few neighbours or other people from your community and discuss with them what they think may be the possible causes of any malnutrition that can be found in your area (see Figure 6.4). Document your discussions and possible causes in your Study Diary and discuss your findings with your Tutor.

Group discussion
Figure 6.4  Group discussion to identify causes of malnutrition.

Now you will learn more about the causes of malnutrition using a way of looking at the problem that will help you identify its various underlying reasons.

Because the causes of malnutrition are complex, they should be addressed in a systematic way in order to find the right solutions for the problem. Usually malnutrition is not the single consequence of a single factor but a mixture of different causes. The size of the contribution of each of these may vary.

Look carefully at Figure 6.5. You will see that the causes of malnutrition have been divided into three main headings: the basic causes; the underlying causes; and the immediate causes.

Causes and consequences of malnutrition
Figure 6.5  Causes and consequences of malnutrition.

You are now going to look at each of these causes in more detail.

6.3  Classification of malnutrition

6.4.1  Immediate causes of malnutrition