Malnutrition occurs when individuals’ nutrient intake fails to meet their nutrient demand. This mismatch is the result of an extremely complex range of diverse interconnected factors that decrease nutrient intake and/or increase nutrient requirements. The Conceptual Framework of Malnutrition (see figure below), initially developed by UNICEF, reflects the various factors, how they interact and affect nutritional status.

Adapted from UNICEF (1990) and Black (2008).

The immediate causes of malnutrition are related to dietary intake and to health. The underlying causes include household food insecurity, inadequate care and access to health services, and poor household environment. The basic causes of undernutrition are rooted in poverty and involve interactions between social, economic, and political contexts.

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