I am writing my second World Food Programme blog today about an issue which plagues families, and traps them into a cycle which is often unbreakable.
Malnutrition is not necessarily the problem of not having enough to eat, rather, it’s an issue of not having the right food to eat such as protein, minerals and vitamins, essential for the physical and mental development of a child.
Sadly, malnutrition often begins in the womb, as an undernourished mother gives birth to an undernourished child. This cycle is repeated, and repeated – creating communities of undernourished people. Ensuring a child receives proper nutrition is critical in the first two years of life – it is not only essential for their development, yet vital when fighting of disease.
When I was in Ghana two months ago, I sadly saw these issues every day. Children were not only hungry, but severely lacked the right food to develop. When I recall doing my final school exams, I remember taking about 5 different vitamin tablets a day – from Vitamin C to Iron tablets, just to stay well for my exams! These children don’t have such supplements to make it through to the next day! The video below, however, shows just how feasible and practical it is to solve malnutrition – in fact solving it will save the world money! It’s more of a question now of why aren’t we solving it?
The World Food Programme also published a very comprehensive 10 pointer about why providing adequate nutrition to everybody is important for the development of the developing world.
1. Save lives
Poor nutrition is the largest single contributing factor to child mortality, more than HIV/AIDS, TB and malaria combined. It is the underlying cause of more than one-third of deaths of children under five. That’s 3.5 million a year.
2. It’s doable
We have the knowledge, ability and means to prevent child undernutrition in developing countries. According to the World Bank, US$3.6 billion would give all the undernourished small children in the world the nutritious foods they need.
3. Irreversible effects
Without the right nutrition in the first two years of life, a child’s physical and mental development is compromised irreversibly. This is recognised by medical science and is stated explicitly in an often-cited 2008 article in The Lancet – “Maternal and Child Undernutrition”
4. Key in emergencies
Getting vital nutrients to the hungry in emergencies means you can save more lives. After an earthquake such as the one in Haiti recently the threat of malnutrition is always lurking as people struggle to find food. Read story
5. Stave off disease
Malnourished bodies are more vulnerable to diseases like malaria and tuberculosis. In fact, the health effects of undernutrition are responsible for more than one-third of childhood deaths and 11 percent of the world’s disease burden.
6. Prevention best
Acting before malnutrition becomes severe makes sense. It costs $40-80 per child, per year, for a complementary food intervention to prevent it. Compare that to the $200 it costs to treat just one episode of severe malnourishment.
7. Reduce stunting
Chronic undernourishment often results in stunting – or lower than average growth. It afflicts nearly 200 million children in the developing world (UNICEF), and many more are at risk.
8. The economic cost
Malnutrition has a significant economic cost – one study of Central America and the Dominican Republic found that economic losses due to child undernutrition cost an estimated $6.7 billion in one year alone, representing up to 11.4 percent of a nation’s GDP.
9. New products
There is a range of simple solutions now available for fighting malnutrition. For example, micronutrient powders, or ‘Sprinkles’, are sachets containing a powder that can be sprinkled onto food to ensure people get all the micronutrients they need. They cost a few cents each.
10. Building foundations
Combating malnutrition means ensuring that those in the next generation – the very future of our planet – are able to reach their full potential by having healthy minds and bodies.
You can also look at the following two documents which provide further information about nutrition.
UNICEF – Tracking Progress on Child and Maternal Nutrition (November 2009)
World Bank – Scaling Up Nutrition: What will it cost? (December 2009)
You can read about the valuable work that the World Food Programme carrys out, and donate to the WFP here, helping them to solve malnutrition in countries worldwide.
I wrote this blog because I am a BLOGGER AGAINST HUNGER.