Even though the civil war in Liberia ended in 2003, the effects of that war still affect their infrastructure today. One of the most concerning side effects is malnutrition, as a study from 2012 recorded that 35.8 percent of Liberia’s citizens fell under the category of malnourished. A large number of those citizens are just children. The U.N.’s World Food Program reported in 2010 that 41.8 percent of children under the age of five years old were considered stunted due to malnourishment.

“Stunted” can mean a variety of health problems: hindered growth, a weak immune system, a smaller IQ, blindness, brain damage and eventually death. Not only does Liberia lack the proper means and knowledge to nourish their bodies, they also struggle with gaining access to clean, safe drinking water. When faced with unclean water and other unhygienic practices, children can easily develop diarrhea which makes nourishment an even harder goal to reach.

Another contributing factor to malnutrition in Liberia is teenage pregnancy. They have one of the highest teenage birth rates in the entire world. Thirty-eight percent of girls are pregnant or mothers by age 18. This high birth rate can be attributed to the poverty Liberia faces, which in turn affects their education and resources.  Fifteen percent of these mothers are malnourished themselves, impacting a child before he or she is even born.

Organizations are attempting to fix this issue by teaching Liberians about contraception, hygiene, agriculture and the importance of breastfeeding. There is a trend where young mothers in Liberia do not wish to breastfeed for cosmetic reasons. Other charities are providing milk, folic acid and other medical treatment to Liberian’s malnourished, particularly the babies. Once a baby starts to become stunted due to malnourishment, it is difficult to reverse the process.

Those providing aid to Liberians hope to stop this epidemic. While there are many other issues resulting from the poverty in Liberia, malnutrition is dramatically altering and even ending lives. With some small changes to their nourishment practices, a large percentage of lives can be saved.

Melissa Binns

Sources: Action Against Hunger, AllAfrica, Child Fund International, UNICEF
Photo: Press TV

malnutrition in kazakhstan
Malnutrition in Kazakhstan? In the heart of Central Asia, a region known for issues with health, Kazakhstan stands as a possible success story in the well being of its people. With child malnutrition rates below five percent, lower than the Central Asian average and well below the rates for some of its neighbors, the Kazakh government and aid organizations working in the country have made improvements in malnutrition efforts worthy of praise.

Born in the post-Soviet world, Kazakhstan is still a relatively new state. Made up of ethnic Kazakhs as well as a large population of ethnic Russians, Kazakhstan is the largest country to come out of the USSR other than Russia itself. It dwarfs its neighbors of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan, spanning across almost three million square miles of continent but remaining landlocked. It is the biggest economy in Central Asia and is currently going through an economic diversification process that the government hopes will stabilize and lengthen growth.

Almost all indicators of malnutrition have improved in Kazakhstan in the last decade. From 2004 to 2014, the prevalence of food inadequacy declined from 10.1 percent to 5.9 percent. The percent of children who are stunted declined from 17.5 percent in 2006 to 13.1 percent just four years later.

The prevalence of anaemia in children, which is characterized by fatigue and decreased work output, decreased from 35.4 percent in 2004 to 30 percent in 2011. However, the overall presence of undernourishment had almost no change from 2004 to 2007, leaving 800,000 people vulnerable to undernourishment.

Central Asia as a region has an ongoing battle with undernourishment and malnutrition. Common demarcations of this are anaemia, which is a decrease in the amount of red blood cells in the blood, iodine deficiency, iron deficiency and Vitamin A deficiency.

Kazakhstan preformed well in all of these categories. Iodine deficiency, which was a huge problem after the collapse of the Soviet Union, has been almost completely eradicated in Kazakhstan by iodizing all salt consumed in the country. Anaemia levels are lower in the country than in most of its neighbors. Regional averages for iron deficiencies and vitamin A deficiencies hover around 50-60 percent for women and children.

While by no means in the clear with malnutrition, especially for children, Kazakhstan has continued to improve in most indicators. It is working towards a more stable, diversified economy that will hopefully keep food prices low and unchanging.

Caitlin Huber

Sources: CIA,  Knoema,  IRIN
Photo: Inter Press Service News Agency

malnutrition in CAR
Last year, clashes in the Central African Republic, or CAR, between Christian and Islamic militants claimed the lives 2,116 civilians. The CAR is fast becoming home to a ghastly humanitarian crisis, in which violence is exacerbating malnutrition.

In the capital city of Bangui, the number of children facing life-threatening malnutrition has tripled since violence began escalating in December of 2013. Their situation is being complicated by the brutal course that the conflict has taken.

Action Against Hunger collected over 1,000 case studies of parents of malnourished children in the CAR between July 2013 and March 2014, and found that 75 percent presented symptoms of PTSD.

PTSD can significantly impair a mother’s ability to nurse a child. Nurses in health centers around Bangui have reported that some traumatized mothers become convinced that they cannot produce milk. Others simply do not respond to their child’s needs—some have even attempted suicide and infanticide. PTSD in children can also play a role in malnourishment, as traumatized children may refuse to eat.

The conflict in the Central African Republic is not only causing malnutrition—it is also exporting it.

Over the past year, conflict in Nigeria and the Central African Republic has displaced some 1.2 million people. These migrants typically seek refuge in neighboring countries like Chad, Niger and Cameroon, further straining the resources of countries already dealing with rampant malnourishment.

On Feb. 12, the U.N. requested $2 billion in aid for people across Africa’s Sahel belt—a semi-arid strip of land south of the Sahara Desert that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Red Sea.

“The violence and conflict has a devastating effect, it is casting a shadow across the region,” said Robert Piper, U.N. regional humanitarian coordinator for the Sahel.

Parker Carroll

Sources: Eyewitness News, The Guardian 1,  The Guardian 2,   The Guardian 3
Photo: Africa Up Close

Malnutrition in Benin, like in many countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, is currently widespread. However, some experts have suggested the malnutrition rate can decrease if nutrition programs focus on education and community empowerment.

Malnutrition is defined by the World Food Programme as “a state in which the physical function of an individual is impaired to the point where he or she can no longer maintain adequate bodily performance process such as growth, pregnancy, lactation, physical work and resisting and recovering from disease.” Globally, it contributes to more than 50 percent of children’s deaths.

Researchers measure chronic malnutrition in terms of “stunting,” or low height for age. Other aspects of malnutrition include the presence or absence of edema, which is dependent upon the relationship between total calorie intake and protein intake. In addition, micronutrient deficiencies, particularly in iodine and vitamin A, characterize malnutrition, leading to growth problems in children.

In Benin, roughly 4 in 10 children are chronically malnourished, according to the World Bank. In the north of the country, one UNICEF representative set the rate of severe malnutrition, which often requires immediate hospitalization, at 34.6 percent.

Thus, the problem is severe and threatens the lives of children each and every day. However, the task of reducing malnutrition in Benin faces many obstacles.

For one, 50 different languages are spoken throughout the country, limiting the scope that nutrition programs can realistically aim for in most cases. Also, many entrenched cultural beliefs induce malnutrition inadvertently, so medical personnel have expressed a need to replace myth with other forms of knowledge.

“The main cause of malnutrition is ignorance,” one nurse in North Benin said.

One myth holds that children who eat eggs become thieves. Moreover, it is culturally acceptable for a man to eat first and to leave whatever remains of his share for his wife and children.

The weapon against ignorance is education, which some experts argue must be community-driven in order to work around the country’s linguistic and cultural diversity.

One such educational program is the Community Nutrition Education Project launched in 2012. Through this program, 12,607 grandmothers in various communities were taught how to promote the health of pregnant women and children. As important figures in their communities, these grandmothers are in prime positions to educate village members.

The lessons are not complicated. Village members are being taught how to use readily available foods to improve the nutrition of meals. For example, instead of feeding a child only millet, a mother could enrich the dish with soya, moringa or other local foods.

Organizations are working on a broader scale as well, but education remains a key aspect of their work. In 2013, the World Bank approved a payment of $28 million to secure nutrition services for hundreds of thousands of children and training for about 75,000 pregnant mothers and adolescents.

Certainly, structural factors are currently acting to keep malnutrition a problem in Benin. General food insecurity is high, with nearly 12% of food produced going to waste, and, as previously mentioned, the country’s diversity complicates the process of reform.

However, addressing the cultural factors leading to malnourishment can effectively reduce malnutrition in Benin, structural hindrances notwithstanding.

Ryan Yanke

Sources: UNICEF, World Bank 1, World Bank 2, Panapress, Sci Dev Net, University of Michigan
Photo: VECO

Malnutrition can originate from all sorts of sources: lack of funds, lack of access to food or even negligence. According to the World Health Organization, 45 percent of infant deaths are caused by a lack of nutrition. And malnutrition may not always be the direct cause of death in these children. Often they may pass from things like malaria, pneumonia and diarrhea, all of which stem from a lack of nutrition.

In areas like South Africa, malnutrition is an issue affecting 64 percent of infants. UNICEF has made significant efforts to pervade the country and educate mothers on the benefits of breastfeeding. It seems the primary source of a lack of nutrition has been mixed-feeding practices. In these cases, supplemental food is certainly less than enough from a nutritional standpoint. Nevertheless, 53 percent of infants in South Africa under six months of age are mix-fed.

UNICEF has taken initiative by directly corresponding with the Department of Health in South Africa in order to improve policies and education. They have also taken the approach to focus malnutrition on HIV transmission. With babies more severely undernourished, they are much more apt to receive HIV from their mothers because they are weak and unable to grow.

Deaths under the age of five occur in very specific regions, precisely sub-Saharan Africa and Southern India. The good news is that the rest of the world has seen a drop from 1990 from 32 percent to 18 percent in the percentage of infant deaths under the age of five.

While infants in certain parts of the world suffer from malnutrition due to a lack of finance or education, it seems almost everywhere in the world malnutrition can happen as a result of negligence. For example in 2010 a baby died in South Korea after only a three months of life at a mere 5.5 pounds. CNN reported that the couple was too engaged in online gaming to have paid attention to their newborn. Ironically the game they were playing involved raising a virtual child.

In northern France this year, an infant died of malnourishment at 11 months of age. Parents magazine reported that the vegan couple was only breastfeeding the infant. At this age babies should be introduced to more solid foods, and especially in the case of a vegan couple. Because the infant’s mother was not receiving enough protein, she died with both a Vitamin A and B12 deficiency.

Regardless of what may cause malnutrition in infants, it is something that clearly needs to be monitored. It gives us hope that certain statistics are falling, but the world needs to send its focus more so to the problem areas. We can give our donations, but best of all we can give our wisdom and our health knowledge to prevent more infants from unnecessarily leaving this earth.

Kathleen Lee

Sources: WHO, Parenting, CNN, UNICEF 
Photo: Flickr

The problem of hunger in Kazakhstan is no longer considered urgent. As of 2004, the country has successfully achieved the first target, within the framework of Millennium Development Goal (MDG) one: halving the proportion of people suffering from hunger. However, the larger issue remains that a majority of the proportion still suffers from poverty and lacks access to a balanced nutrition.

In Kazakhstan, four percent of children under five are underweight, while almost one percent are severely underweight. Another 13 percent are stunted for their age, illustrating measures of both acute and chronic malnutrition. Hidden hunger, or deficiencies of vital vitamins and minerals in a diet, is common among children in Kazakhstan and often leads to their morbidity and mortality.

In related news, women are likely to obtain iron-deficiency anemia, with almost 50 percent of reproductive age women suffering from the condition. High rates of anemia during pregnancy have led to large numbers of children in Kazakhstan suffering from slow brain development, stunted growth and a decrease of intellectual capacity. Mothers who suffer from iron deficiencies also create a greater chance of death for their child during pregnancy and childbirth.

Lack of Vitamin A for pregnant women has also caused concern in Kazakhstan, due to the fact that roughly 20 percent of children are born with depressed immune systems. Consequently, the children are more prone to infectious diseases without the capability of fighting it off.

Poverty, especially in rural areas, is to blame for the remaining starvation in the country. Levels of rural poverty are currently twice as high as urban poverty, leaving many children in remote villages with inadequate food intake. Children in West Kazakhstan are more likely to be underweight than any other children in the country. However, the percentage decreases depending on the level of education of their mothers.

Although hunger in Kazakhstan is well on its way in being eliminated, the country still has work that needs to be done. Kazakhstan is active on the regional and international arena in achieving development goals and objectives. Given Kazakhstan’s success within the framework of MDG 1, this bodes well for social service delivery in the future.

– Leeda Jewayni

Sources: UNDP, UNDG
Photo: Flickr

End Starvation
Nearly 25,000 people die every day from starvation. While in richer countries nutrition isn’t always a paramount problem, there are still 947 million people living in developing nations who are undernourished; we have the ability to help lower this number. Below are a list of ways you can help easily end starvation.

1. Raise Money

During the 2011 East African famine, relief organizations such as Save The Children and UNICEF launched campaigns to raise money for feeding starving children. By using clear and simple incentives (“just $10 can feed a child for seven days!”), smart organizations allowed even those halfway across the world to help those in need. Donating money is simple, easy and can usually be done online with just a click of a button.

2. Urge your Congressional Leaders to Support Crucial Legislation

Calling or emailing your congressional leaders is a simple and a sure way to increase their chances of supporting a bill which could save millions of lives. One such bill still waiting to be passed in the House of Representatives is the Global Food Security Act of 2013, which would improve nutrition and strengthen agriculture development in developing countries. Other similar legislation that could use your support includes the Food Aid Reform Act and Water for the World Act.

3. Limit Your Daily Intake

Over the past three decades, the average intake of dietary fats has dramatically increased in almost every country except Africa. With a recommended range from between 15 to 35 percent, we are seeing a stark contrast in dietary intake. In fact, many countries in North America and Western Europe exceeded this recommended daily intake, while countries in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia fell dramatically below.

Despite our growing intake, we are quickly running out of natural resources. In an overpopulated world, it is up to each of us to individually be cognizant of our daily intake. By limiting our intake in richer countries, we are ensuring that our world is capable of growing enough food in the first place for all of our global citizens.

By helping others who suffer from malnutrition, we are also helping ourselves in return. The most common causes of death around the world—including heart disease, obesity, cancer and chronic illness—can be a result of unhealthy eating habits.

By remaining aware that we have a much larger role in helping to end global hunger and poverty than we may believe, we can help put an end to millions of those going to sleep hungry at night.

– Nick Magnanti

Sources: CNN, Borgen Project, McCollum House, Food for the Poor, Green Facts, Green Facts 2
Photo: Action ContrelAfaim

hunger in benin
Benin is a small West African nation west of Nigeria with a population of approximately nine million. Although it has one of the most stable democracies in Africa, it is still one of the poorest nations in the world.

As part of the Sahel region, where “ongoing conflicts and recurring droughts” make food insecurity even worse, many people in Benin go hungry each day.

In February, the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations asked for $116 million for the 75 million vulnerable people in the Sahel, but less than 14 percent has been received since then.

“If we are going to break out of this cycle of chronic crises across the Sahel region, emergency assistance to vulnerable farmers and pastoralists has to be considered a top priority,” said U.N. Assistant Secretary-General and Regional Humanitarian Coordinator for the Sahel Robert Piper. “The best way to reduce tomorrow’s emergency case-load is to help households protect their assets today.”

Droughts, floods and financial conditions have damaged the country’s nutritional situation in the most vulnerable parts of the country. Recently, low rainfall has contributed to the significant shortage of food causing hunger in Benin. One of the causes of malnutrition is Benin‘s weak agricultural system. The system has structural problems, including, according to the World Food Programme, “a lack of modern farming technologies, poor soil condition, and weak post-harvest infrastructure (storage, preservation, processing, etc.).”

A survey conducted by the Benin government in 2011 found that 33.6 percent of Benin households are food insecure. Additionally, the 2012 Multi-Indicator Cluster Survey showed that 16 percent of Benin children suffer from acute malnutrition and 44.6 percent of Benin children under five suffer from chronic malnutrition.

The Hunger Project, which has been working in Benin since 1997, has been working to provide the people of Benin with their basic needs. To combat poverty, The Hunger Project has established food banks at the epicenter of Benin and in villages in hopes that the communities can be food secure in the event of a shortage.

Kimmi Ligh

Sources: World Food Programme, The Guardian
Photo: Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Hunger in Asia
Hunger is a serious global issue that affects millions in developing countries, and hunger in Asia is particularly devastating. According to the World Food Programme, there are 842 million people suffering from hunger across the world, and 98 percent of that total amount lives in developing areas within Asia, the Pacific, Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean.

As the largest and most populous continent, Asia is home to approximately 4.427 billion people. Unfortunately, a large amount of that population suffers from hunger.


Top Facts about Hunger in Asia


1.  Asia has the largest number of hungry people, with more than 500 million suffering.

2. About 62.4 percent of global hunger exists in both Asia and the South Pacific.

3. More than 20 percent of Asian children are underweight, meaning they are too thin for their age, and more than 70 percent of malnourished children live in Asia.

4. The lack of essential vitamins and minerals in one’s diet is a leading cause of hunger and malnutrition. Both Asia and Africa are iodine deficient areas. Iodine deficiency disorders (IDD) greatly impact the mental and cognitive development of children, and if pregnant women do not receive the proper amount of iodine, there is a greater chance the pregnancy will result in abortion, stillbirth and congenital abnormalities.

5. About 75 percent of all those suffering from hunger live in rural areas, and a large majority of them live in the villages of Asia and Africa.

6. Out of the 553 million malnourished people living in Asia, six out of ten live in South Asia and eight out of ten are malnourished children living in those areas.

7. The poor and hungry in Asia face difficulties as the demand for food increases while water and land resources decrease, causing food prices to rise. If these food prices did not rise during the 2000s, approximately 112 million people in Asia could have escaped poverty.

However, there is some good news and socio-economic progress in Asia:

8. The 2013 Global Hunger Index (GHI) score for South Asia decreased by 34 percent when compared to the 1990 score.

9. Although 553 million people are still hungry in Asia, this represents a 30 percent decrease from the previous 739 million hungry people. Malnourishment has also decreased from 23.7 to 13.9 percent.

10. The U.N. launched the Zero Hunger Challenge on April 29, 2013, which has led governments, scientists, businesses, civil societies, farmers and consumers to work together to end poverty and hunger in Asia and the Pacific. To achieve this goal, the Zero Hunger Challenge outlined five objectives: ensure everyone always has access to nutritious foods, end childhood stunting, develop sustainable food systems, increase the productivity and income of small farmers and prevent the loss and wasting of food.

As these facts reveal, too many people across the world still suffer from hunger. Like in any other country, hunger in Asia affects the development of entire societies and communities.

Meghan Orner

Sources: World Food Programme, International Food Policy Research Institute, Asian Development Bank 1, Asian Development Bank 2, Hunger Notes, UN News Centre
Photo: WSJ

food waste
We all know that wasting food is wrong, but do we ever stop to think how this careless act directly impacts those who are less fortunate? The U.N.’s Environment Programme (UNEP) and the World Resources Institute (WRI) recently revealed that almost one-third of all the food produced in the world is either lost or wasted in food production and consumption systems—food that could have fed the hungry.

According to the U.N., 842 million people suffer from the effects of hunger globally, and using the UNEP and WRI’s estimates, the one-third of the world’s food wasted could equal up to 1,520 calories for each hungry person in developing countries where malnourishment is widespread.

There is also a moral imperative involved in resolving this issue as the President of the World Bank Group Jim Yong Kim points out, “Millions of people around the world go to bed hungry every night, and yet millions of tons of food end up in trash cans or spoiled on the way to market. We have to tackle this problem in every country in order to improve food security and to end poverty.”

What people may not realize is that food waste unfortunately occurs in both industrialized and developing countries. In industrialized countries, food waste is typically caused by consumers buying too much food and being too concerned with the food’s appearance.

While the problem itself is the same in developing countries, food waste in these countries is caused by the lack of technology, harvesting techniques, post-harvest management and even marketing methods. Insect infestations and high temperatures also affect the quality of food products. For example, at least a quarter of the crops grown are wasted in Africa, where 65 percent of the labor force completes agricultural work.

The environment is also negatively affected by food waste as fertilizers, pesticides and other chemicals are wasted while the rotting food creates more methane, a harmful greenhouse gas that is one of the greatest contributors to climate change.

Many are also fearful of the effect the growing population will have on the availability of food after the Pew Research Center revealed that 9.6 billion people are expected to populate the world in 2050, emphasizing the importance of future food security.

As a global issue, many campaigns such as Think.Eat.Save. are now focusing on ensuring food security and reducing the amount of food wasted. A campaign of the Save Food Initiative, Think.Eat.Save works to alleviate the negative humanitarian, environmental and financial effects food waste has on both developed and developing countries.

As the organization’s name suggests, we can all do our part in ensuring that we are not wasting food by following these three simple steps:

1. Think. Planning meals and creating a grocery list before shopping is a great way to ensure that you’re only buying what you will eat.

2. Eat. Be mindful of what you eat, and save time and money by eating food out of the fridge first.

3. Save. Freeze produce so it stays fresh longer and don’t forget to make the most of leftovers.

Food wasting is a serious global issue that affects millions, but through these simple steps we can all do our part in reducing our “foodprint.”

– Meghan Orner

Sources: World Bank, World Bank 2, U.N. Environment Programme, U.N. Regional Information Centre for Western Europe, United Nations, Pew Research Center, Global Issues, Society of St. Andrew, Think. Eat. Save
Photo: World Food Day USA