The purpose of this thesis is to verify and describe the effects of malnutrition among children in Sub Saharan Africa and Southern Asia. The research question was; what are the effects of malnutrition among children in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia?

The aim of this study was to find out and describe why developing countries are associated with malnutrition complications and the impact is having in the health and lives of children. Although rare in developed countries, malnutrition in children remains a menace in many developing countries. Malnutrition occurs most commonly in Southern Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa. The effective management of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) is a huge challenge in low resource healthcare locations.

The method of data collection was systematic literature review which means conducting a literature search, selecting data relevant to the purpose question, description of the data selected and analyzing the data. This review was based on books from Laurea University of Applied Science’s library, Helsinki university library and previously conducted studies done through current articles, journals and web search. In addition, electronic search was also conducted through Laurea’s electronic database NELLI.

From the findings it was reported that malnutrition among children in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia contribute to health problems such as malaria, enteric infectious diseases in-volving hundreds of millions of children in the world. Malnutrition among children leads to impairment in child development and academic achievement, and also affects the economy of the state. Lack of parental education about nutrition also plays a very important role in child’s nutritional health.

The food industry, policy makers, and health care professionals will have an important role in changing practices and strengthening education and research to prevent malnutrition for cur-rent and future generations. More effective prevention and treatment of malnutrition is needed urgently in order to save lives.

Keywords: Malnutrition, children, effects of malnutrition




2.1 Malnutrition

2.1.1 Under nutrition

2.1.2 Over nutrition

2.2 Children

2.2.1 Physiological Development

2.2.2 Cognitive Development



4.1 Literature Search

4.2 Data Screening

4.3 Data Extraction

4.4 Data Analysis


5.1 Educational effects

5.2 Health effects

5.3 Economic effects


6.1 Trustworthiness

6.2 Ethical Considerations

6.3 Limitations

6.4 Recommendations






Malnutrition is estimated to contribute to more than one third of all child deaths, although it is rarely listed as the direct cause. Childhood malnutrition is a serious challenge in Sub-Saharan Africa and a major underlying cause of death. It is a result of dynamic and complex interaction between political, social, economic, environmental and other factors. Malnutrition is a major contributor to mortality and is increasingly recognized as a cause of potentially lifelong functional disability. Malnutrition is well recognized as a widespread health prob-lem with consequences that are acute and even, more often long-term problems. Malnutrition remains a problem of public health concern in most developing countries (Kennedy, Pedro, Seghieri, Nantel & Brouwer 2007). Containing less or no animal products, and slight amounts of fresh fruits and vegetables, diets are deficient in micronutrients and of poor quality.

In a global context, approximately 45% of the 6.6 million deaths of children under-five year of age in 2012 are caused by undernutrition (UNICEF, 2012). Geographically, the majority of the undernutrition burden exists in Sub-Saharan Africa and South-Central Asia (Bhutta and Salam 2012). Malnutrition has three commonly used comprehensive types named stunting, wasting and underweight: measured by height for age, weight for height and weight for age indexes respectively. Adequate nutrition continues to play an important role during the school age years in assuring that children reach their full potential for growth, development and health. Nutrition problems can still occur during this age, such as iron-deficiency anemia, under nutrition such as Kwashiorkor, marasmus, over-nutrition and dental caries. The prevalence of obesity is increasing but the beginning of eating disorders can also be detected in some school age and preadolescent children.

In addition, adequate nutrition prevents the onset of health-related problems, encouraging a healthy eating pattern can help prevent immediate health concerns as well as promote a healthy lifestyle, which in turn may reduce the risk of the child developing a chronic condition such as obesity, type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease later in life (Story, Holts & Sofka 2000). Adequate nutrition, especially eating breakfast has been associated with improved academic performance in school and reduced tardiness and absence (Meyer, Sampson, Weitzman, Rogers & Kayne 1989). Consequently, this meets the energy and nutrient needs of the children, addressing common nutrition problems, and preventing nutrition-related disorders.

The growth and development of school-age and preadolescent children and their relationships to nutritional status is significant right from the beginning. Children continue to grow physi-cally at a steady rate during this period; nevertheless the development from cognitive, emo-tional and social standpoint is tremendous. This period in a child’s life is preparation for the physical and emotional demands of the adolescent growth spurt, with aid of family members, teachers and others in their lives who model healthy eating and physical activity behaviors.

This thesis focuses on the effects of malnutrition and the impact it has on the lives of children in the developing countries, particularly in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southern Asia by re-viewing existing scientific-based literatures on the topic of malnutrition. The purpose of this study was to find out and describe why developing countries are associated with malnutrition problems. The study is conducted through a systematic literature review because it synthesis and analyzes previous literature findings in an impartial way.