nutrition4_optThe Global Nutrition for Growth Compact has brought politicians, business people, and philanthropists together in an effort to fight global malnutrition. The Compact, signed in London on June 8th, dedicates $4.15 billion over the next seven years to the cause of ending under-nutrition.

The Global Nutrition for Growth Compact was established with the understanding that malnutrition needs to be combated just as much as malnourishment. Malnutrition occurs when a person has an adequate amount of calories but consumes a diet that is lacking in nutrients that are essential for growth and development. On the other hand, malnourishment is a condition resulting from a lack of calories in a diet. While malnourishment can directly lead to death through starvation, malnutrition more than doubles a child’s likelihood of dying due to weakened bodily functions. Poor nutrition is believed to be the primary cause of 45% of child deaths overall.

Fortunately, the number of children in the world who are stunted (or never reach their potential height) as a result of malnutrition dropped from 253 million to 167 million in the two decades between 1990 and 2010. The improvement is credited to a greater understanding of nutritional regimens that prevent malnutrition. Programs that combat malnutrition focus on remedies that emphasize breastfeeding and provide vitamins and nutrients to pregnant women and developing children. Adequate nutrition is critical for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers, as it provides the components needed for infant development and healthy weight gain. Likewise, it is essential that developing children receive vitamins and nutrients for healthy mental and physical growth.

Researchers believe that a million lives could be saved each year through the implementation of a malnutrition reduction program. In addition to saving lives, the program will also provide children with the nutrients they need for full brain development, a component that helps children be successful in school.

– Jordan Kline

Source: IRIN News
Photo: Action Against Hunger

Fragile But Not Helpless
Rates of acute and chronic malnutrition are estimated to be 50 percent higher in countries marred by conflict than in more stable places, according to a new report by World Vision U.K. entitled “Fragile But Not Helpless.”

Because war-torn and violent countries often allocate all efforts toward the alleviation of conflict, the issue of malnutrition is often sidelined. The progress in these countries is in danger of reversing if nothing is done. While the pursuit of peace in conflict-torn countries is extremely important, the alleviation of life-threatening issues such as malnutrition should not be neglected, according to David Thomson of World Vision UK.

More children worldwide die from malnutrition than from conflict, even in violent countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, South Sudan and Afghanistan. Though significant progress has been made in the alleviation of malnutrition, 2.3 million children still die from the condition every year. And yet, war-torn countries divert an average of 60% of their budget to the military and only a fraction of that toward malnutrition.

World Vision UK suggests that “donors simply need to re-prioritize if we’re to ensure the benefits of this progress reach a generation of children in the world’s most fragile states.”

The organization is calling on donor states to encourage conflict-affected states to join their “Scaling Up Nutrition” movement. This movement is a global collective effort involving governments, the United Nations, private donors, civil society, businesses and researchers to improve nutrition.

Their approaches include making nutritious food more accessible, improving access to clean water and improving access to adequate healthcare services. Recently, they have expanded their initiatives to focusing on nutritional development in what they call FCAS, or fragile and conflict-affected states.

With their new report, they aim to encourage G8 leaders to provide funding and technical support to FCAS that have demonstrated a concerted effort to tackle malnutrition. With consistent funding and political attention, Thomson is hopeful that malnutrition can be addressed and alleviated in fragile states.

– Kathryn Cassibry

Sources: World Vision UK, TRUST
Photo: The Guardian

Understanding Hidden Hunger
Sight and Life, a prominent group working to fight micronutrient deficiencies prevalent among the world’s poor, has recently released its Hidden Hunger Index. Hidden hunger is defined as a chronic deficiency of necessary micronutrients. Rather than a lack of food or calories, this type of hunger results from a diet low in specific nutrients. This condition affects approximately 1 in 3 people in the world today and accounts for about 7% of diseases around the world. Although the signs are not visible, hidden hunger has long-term consequences for overall health, productivity, and mental development. The most common deficiencies are in vitamin A, iodine, folate, and B vitamins. Women of reproductive age and young children are most severely affected by this condition.

In addition to its negative and often permanent health effects, hidden hunger has numerous economic consequences. It aggravates global poverty in multiple ways and minimizes countries’ growth in economic productivity. It also increases child and maternal mortality, causes birth defects, diseases, and disabilities. Unfortunately, it also restrains the empowerment of women by adversely affecting their health.

The Hidden Hunger Index concluded that hidden hunger in pre-school age children was alarmingly high in sub-Saharan Africa, India, and Afghanistan. High Hidden Hunger Index was found to correlate with low Human Development Index, a measure based on three basic qualities of human well-being: a long and healthy life, education, and standard of living. While many micronutrient deficiencies were found to occur in groups, iodine deficiencies were often found independently. This is probably due to differing country laws on salt iodization. Iodine deficiency accounts for approximately 18 million children born mentally impaired each year.

Hidden hunger and its related health issues are significant obstacles to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) laid out by the United Nations. The Hidden Hunger Index shines a light on micronutrient deficiencies and acts as a tool for activism. While there is information concerning hunger issues with root causes in a lack of food and calories, and about single micronutrient deficiencies, information about multiple micronutrient deficiencies is sorely lacking. Sight and Life developed the Hidden Hunger Index in the hopes that it will “serve as a tool to stimulate global efforts towards scaling up nutrition interventions”.

– Katie Fullerton

Sources: Micronutrient Initiative, Hidden Hunger Index
Photo: The Guardian

Rethinking Hunger in Africa
Philanthropists may be tempted to rejoice that recent trends have shown that the total number of people who face chronic hunger has dropped. New surveys, however, caution those working to eradicate global poverty.

The Afrobarometer is an independent, nonpartisan research project that measures the social, political and economic environment in Africa through a series of regularly-repeated surveys. By consistently asking the same, standard set of questions in more than a dozen African countries each year, the Afrobarometer can track trends in public attitudes that can be shared with various public actors in order to create better dialogue between the public and the government.

When asked in a recent Afrobarometer survey how many times in the past year they had gone without food, 16% of survey participants responded either “always” or “many times.” Even as global instances of chronic hunger drop as a whole, Africa remains the exception to the trend. The U.N. suggests that 239 million African citizens, or nearly 23% of the total African population, meet the U.N.’s criteria for being chronically undernourished.

The situation is even more alarming when one considers that chronic hunger mainly affects African children, who may experience stunting (low height), wasting (low weight) or micronutrient deficiency if exposed to chronic hunger conditions between the ages of 2 and 3. Chronic hunger not only puts children at risk for future health complications but can also impair future economic concerns as well. Studies have also shown that undernourished children eventually earn an average of 20% less than their healthy peers.

The current hunger problems in African can be traced back to a reliance on maize. Though maize is highly caloric, it offers mediocre nutritional qualities and thus can exacerbate malnutrition even as it satisfies daily caloric needs. Both Zambians and Malawians report receiving more than 50% of their calories from maize.

Over-reliance on maize is not just stunting the growth of African children, but also the potential of the African economy and agricultural development. By only producing maize, African farmers limit their access to global markets, thus making them too reliant on foreign aid and capital.

Instead of maize, the U.N. and its associated nutritionists suggest a food fortification program that supplies rural grain mills with a range of foods that include added iodine, zinc and vitamin A to provide an extra nutritional boost. Additionally, initiatives like ReSCOPE are using schools and colleges in Africa to teach a technique called permaculture, which uses a version of organic farming to keep nutrients in the soil to promote sustainable, year-round crops that will help local farming cultures flourish like never before.

These initiatives follow the concept of the “teach a man to fish” proverb. By promoting a culture of food self-sufficiency that allows African farmers to create both the quantity and quality of the food needed to meet their local nutritional needs, global aid communities and governments may be giving Africa the long-overdue ability to stand on its own two feet.

– Alexandria Bruschi

Source:,Think Africa Press
Photo: WPHR

United Nations officials met with key country leaders at the Nutrition for Growth summit held in London last week to discuss pledged funds and political agreements in the fight against global hunger.  Millions of infants and pregnant women are at risk for stunting and deaths from malnutrition; the Nutrition for Growth summit was a key step in securing hope and help in the fight against malnutrition. UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon sent a video message confirming the organization’s commitment to ending hunger and malnutrition in all forms worldwide.

One in four children will grow up stunted by chronic malnutrition. In today’s world, this number must be reversed. There is no reason for children to suffer from malnutrition. Commitments of funds and political support will help millions of children and boost the economies of some of the world’s most vulnerable countries. The UN is committed to do whatever it takes to see the goals reached and hunger ended.

The Nutrition for Growth summit brought together leaders from governments, the private, and non-profit sector. It was hosted by the governments from Brazil and the United Kingdom as well as the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF). The event resulted in renewed commitments to continue to fight stunting and malnutrition worldwide. Funds pledged at the event exceeded $4 billion.

Stunting in children robs them of their health and their ability to grow up to be productive, contributing citizens. The summit focused on eliminating that prognosis for children. UNICEF also strengthened its desire to invest in fighting malnutrition and to continue to support programs working in over 65 countries to combat malnutrition.

Also signed at the summit was the Global Nutrition for Growth Compact which formalizes commitments to make nutrition a top political and socio-economic priority for donors and countries. It will focus on scientific knowledge, innovation to nutrition, and transparency and monitoring of results. Strong nutrition is key for individuals, nations, and economies to grow and become successful and the Nutrition for Growth summit is another step towards the elimination of global hunger and malnutrition.

– Amanda Kloeppel

Source: UN News Centre

children eating rice

All the talk these days is about global hunger. Under-nourishment. But in focusing solely on that, we completely miss the issue of mal-nourishment. An issue that is becoming all the more relevant as more people are raised out of extreme poverty. Getting enough to eat is one thing, but with nutrition, quality counts nearly as much as quantity.

This facet of global malnutrition is further reaching than that of global hunger. Malnutrition is present in all societies, in developed and undeveloped regions. According to the UN Food and Agricultural Organization (FAO), two billion people worldwide are deficient in essential vitamins and minerals.

The consequences of malnourishment are severe and irreversible. For children who aren’t getting enough nutrients, stunting can do permanent damage to the brain’s ability to develop. Anthony Lake, executive director of UNICEF emphasizes the difference between lacking food versus lacking nutrition:   “The fact is that India, with 48 percent (childhood) stunting, is considered food secure – but that doesn’t mean food is distributed equitably within India.”

Conversely, 1.2 billion are obese. Many of those people live in developed countries where the issue isn’t getting enough to eat, it’s eating healthily. It’s an unfortunate thing that a by-product of readily available cheap foods is that they tend to be unhealthy. Meaning that those who do climb out of extreme poverty and the constant struggle with hunger, end up instead in a situation where the food available to them is cheap and processed and can lead to obesity.

In order to truly break out of a cycle of malnutrition, people need to not only escape extreme poverty, but to reach a point where they can afford to buy more than just the basics. Education also plays a role in this. Understanding and awareness of what’s available and what’s beneficial can go a long way towards improving quality of life. And the knock-on effects of that can be huge. A report by the FAO claims that the combined effects of malnutrition cuts global income by 5% annually due to lost wages, amounting to some $3.5 trillion.

Perhaps a report highlighting this figure will garner some attention for the complex issue of malnourishment. It’s not enough to simply reduce global hunger. The fight doesn’t stop there. That’s only the first step towards a healthier world.

– David Wilson

Sources: Voice of AmericaFAO, Reuters
Photo: World Barrios

A recent study by the organization Save the Children indicates that there is a direct  link between childhood malnutrition and literacy. The Food for Thought study followed 3,000 children in Ethiopia, India, Vietnam and Peru throughout their lives and interviewed them at key points to determine their educational abilities, confidence, hopes and aspirations. The results indicated that children malnourished from an early age are severely hindered in their ability to learn. In comparison to their healthy counterparts, malnourished children score 7% lower on math tests, are 19% less likely to be able to read a simple sentence at eight years old, are 12% less likely to be able to write a simple sentence, and are 13% less likely to be in the appropriate grade for their age at school.

The adverse effects of malnutrition carry over into later life, affecting a person’s chances for success. The Save the Children study showed that malnourished children are 20% less successful in later life, which could prove to be a barrier to ending global poverty, and a hindrance to economic growth.

A quarter of the world’s children are estimated to be malnourished, and that number is not expected to improve if more funding is not delegated to the cause. Currently, just 0.3% of global development spending funds nutrition programs.  On June 8 the G8 global nutrition summit in London will give attending leaders and leading authors a chance to address the issue of childhood malnutrition. Julia Donaldson, a bestselling author of children’s books, is urging world leaders to give attention to childhood malnutrition and its effects on literacy:  “The devastating impact of malnutrition shouldn’t be underestimated,” Donaldson says. “It stunts a child’s development, sapping the strength of their minds as well of their body, depriving them of the chance to be able to read or write a simple sentence.  Leaders attending this summit have a golden opportunity to stop this. They must invest more funding to tackle malnutrition if we are to stop a global literacy famine.”

– Kira Maixner
Source BBC , Save the Children
Photo VOA News

breastfeeding Indonesia

In the world’s fourth most populated country, Indonesia, exclusive breastfeeding is less popular than one might think. Despite the well documented health benefits of breastfeeding such as healthy weight and naturally created nutrients, an Indonesian Demographic and Health Survey from 2002 and 2003 reported that only 14% of women in Indonesia breastfeed. In a more recent study, breast-feeding fell by 10% between 2007 and 2008.

These statistics prove to be disturbing in a country where, according to UNICEF, 37% of children suffer from malnutrition and stunting that results in the delay of mental and physical development which also leads to disease susceptibility. In a search to remedy the situation, formula companies are facing new laws and regulations that will prevent them from targeting mothers with children under the age of one. The Indonesian government estimates that 30,000 young children could be saved simply by being exclusively breastfed until the age of six months. After the six month bench mark, mothers are encouraged to supplement the diet with other foods.

Laws are already in place promoting breastfeeding, but do not have any repercussions for violation. The new laws will enforce the current regulations as well as implement new regulations for formula companies. Iip Syaiful, a nutrition expert from the Ministry of Health, said that the new laws will penalize companies and individuals that “intentionally hamper exclusive breastfeeding” and could face jail terms up to one year or maximum fines of US$32,000.

Regardless of the current laws, many women in Indonesia are guided towards formula use soon after giving birth. The Health Ministry admitted many health workers had “not received the knowledge about the importance of exclusive breastfeeding”.

– Kira Maixner
Source Irin News
Photo Kalyanamitra

$500 Million 'Rescue Mission' Initiative LaunchedWith cuts to foreign aid looming and some already in place, humanitarian organizations are going to become even more important in the fight against global poverty. Evangelical organization World Vision launched a $500 million ‘Rescue Mission’ initiative to help 10 million children living in poverty.  The ‘Rescue Mission’ initiative will focus on clean water, access to health care, and child protection.

Under the budget cuts that went into effect as of January 1, 2013, non-profits are predicting that there will be 1.1 million fewer mosquito nets distributed, 300,000 fewer people with access to clean water, and 2 million people with reduced or zero access to food aid.  This is cause for serious concern as we look at being less than 1,000 from the end date for the Millenium Development Goals (MDG).

World Vision launched the $500 million ‘rescue mission’ dubbed “For Every Child” which seeks to raise $500 million by 2015.  It is the farthest-reaching endeavor World Vision has ever taken on.  The initiative will focus on clean water, fighting communicable diseases, providing small loans to families, and protecting children from human trafficking.

When the government cuts budgets, it can be difficult for non-profit organizations to get the start-up capital they need to start new ventures. This campaign is important to continue the life-saving work World Vision is already doing around the world.  It will hopefully fill the gap from government funds and continue to promote the MDGs as we near the final stretch.  We have halved poverty in the last decade and it is very possible to continue the downward trend, but it is going to take a lot of hard work.

While the needs are great and the costs seem high, the alternative to pushing forward is not an option. As Richard Sterns, Executive Director of World Vision put it, “We’ve taken a hard look at the needs that exist today. They are great, but we refuse to believe that poverty is too big, too expensive, or too difficult to overcome-because for the millions of children living in poverty, the stakes couldn’t be higher.”

– Amanda Kloeppel

Source: Christian Post

Free Meals for Indian School Children
Imagine what it’s like to have to choose between attending elementary school or harvesting wheat as a means of preventing starvation. Sadly, for many children in India where –according to UNICEF – upwards of 40 % of the population under five is underweight, this choice is one that many of their students have to make on a daily basis. However, thanks to the efforts of The Akshaya Patra Foundation and some assembly line ingenuity, free meals for Indian school children are now a reality for many elementary and middle school students.

The free meals for Indian school children program were incorporated following a 2001 Supreme Court Ruling institutionalizing free meals for all children under the age of 13. The Indian Government – in cooperation with The Akshaya Patra Foundation – has been able to feed 1.4 million children a day, resulting in greater attendance and a heightened ability to focus in class. The Foundation’s Vice Chairman, Chanchalapathi Dasa, remarked that “If a child is hungry in the classroom then he or she will not be able to receive all this education.”

But how does the government-run a program to provide that many free meals for Indian school children in one day? The answer is through an ingenious “gravity flow” kitchen that utilizes the technologies of mass production and efficiency. Basically, the kitchen is divided into 3 floors where food is prepped on the third floor, sent down –via a chute – to the cauldrons for cooking on the second floor, and sent down a final chute to be packaged and shipped to the schools on the first floor. Vice-Chairman Dasa added that the organization knew the scope of the problem that they were trying to address and “realized that in order to see a significant impact we have to do it in scale and that we have to use modern techniques of management and innovation” to make a difference.

Programs such as these serve as a much needed shot in the arm in combating global poverty and chronic undernourishment for much of India’s youth. By providing free meals for Indian schoolchildren, investments made by the government today will result in greater technological innovation through educational achievements in the future.

Brian Turner

Source: CNN