Human Milk and Infant Nutrition Breastmilk possesses invaluable qualities that nourish, nurture and protect infant health. Most people are aware that the properties of breast milk help to fight against infections in infants. However, it is lesser-known that breastfeeding stimulates hormone responses that establish bonds crucial to healthy emotional development. There is a general lack of awareness surrounding the global inequalities of breast milk, particularly in nutrient quality and status. Society perpetuates the cycle of poverty when they remain naive of the issues affecting poor women.

Not only is the nutritional value of breast milk unequal across nations, but women in developing countries are disproportionately affected by poverty and malnutrition. This further hinders the production of nutrient-rich human milk in low-income areas. Women are also less likely to receive health and nutrition education than men. Despite the fact that women are natural suppliers of infant nutrition, they forfeit nutritional intake under the given circumstances.

Women’s issues in developing nations also face a disparity in the quantity of data. Lindsay Allen, a scientist who studies human milk and micronutrient deficiencies in developing countries, addresses this issue with the MILQ Project. She emphasizes that understanding differences in human milk condition is key in bridging the human milk and infant nutrition gap.

The MILQ Project in a Nutshell

To study the human milk quality of women in developing countries, Allen collected samples from well-nourished lactating mothers in Bangladesh, Brazil, Denmark and The Gambia. With these reference values, she gained a better understanding of the quality of breast milk concerning maternal nutrient intake and infant status. Allen used a consistent frame of reference for extracting research (from the time of delivery until nearly 9 months postpartum) to increase the accuracy of results. She found that there is considerable variance in micronutrient value in breast milk, an issue that remains a misconception among common social ideology.

More specifically, the concentration of thiamin in breast milk and infant status was found to be closely linked to maternal intake. Maternal deficiencies are likely the cause of correlating infant deficiencies, but with supplementation, thiamin levels and infant status were able to adjust accordingly. Research shows that vitamin B6 concentration in infants is also strongly linked to breast milk amounts and maternal status. Additionally, supplementation also improves human milk concentration in a short amount of time.

Sociocultural Norms Leave Women’s Issues Unattended

In addition to the limited evidence base for human milk and infant nutrition, there is also an extreme lack of resources when it comes to nutritional recommendations for lactating mothers. The only mentioning of nutritional lactation support given by the World Health Organization (WHO) was in 2016. The WHO asserts that postpartum women may be prescribed supplementation of iron and potentially folic acid to reduce the risk of anemia for areas in which it is considered a public health concern.

Regarding iron deficiency statistics, the WHO states that “data indicates that while iodine status has improved among pregnant and lactating women in Europe, the eastern Mediterranean, Southeast Asia and the Western Pacific regions, there has been little progress in the African region.” Researchers are learning that lactation nutrition goes beyond iron and folic acid. Studies like the MILQ Project are progressive steps towards bridging the gap in human milk and infant nutrition.

Breast Milk Goes Beyond Nutrition

The biochemical correspondence that takes place between a mother and her infant is a complicated interaction. The recent developments have made it possible to explore the molecular chemical structure of breast milk and infant nutrition. Various other health and therapeutic benefits that extend beyond its nutritive assets can now be validated through research. Infants that receive breast milk of optimal nutritional quality gain access to profound benefits. Areas where infants face micronutrient deficiencies may encounter more of a struggle. This creates a gap between the nursing mother and her infant in terms of the health benefits, as well as their biochemical interaction. Nursing, along with skin to skin contact, allows both mother and baby to produce oxytocin, a hormone that triggers other positive chemical reactions in the brain and is essential in forming bonds.

Recent improvements in methodology have allowed for the study of the chemical nature of breast milk. However, it is still not surprising that few studies have been carried out on this subject. These scientific advancements can aid in developing strategies surrounding nutrition, healthy feeding practices and therapeutic methodologies for infants. These societal advancements will further assist in bridging the gap in human milk and infant nutrition.

In Allen’s MILQ Study, vitamin concentrations in breast milk in developing areas were considered insufficient to obtain adequate infant status. Nutrient deficient mothers are not able to provide all of the necessary nutrients and micronutrients to their infants. The review shows that vitamin concentration levels are often less than half of optimal levels in comparison to the U.S. When it comes to human milk and infant nutrition, there is a global and gendered gap limiting the world’s understanding of the inequalities of human milk.

Helen Schwie
Photo: Flickr
 

 

Making Nutrition Attainable
There are roughly 15.2 million children under the age of 5 in Bangladesh, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). Malnutrition affected about half of this population for years. However, there has been some success in lowering this amount by making nutrition attainable. The WHO records that growth stunting reduced from 41 percent in 2011 to 36 percent in 2014. The percentage of underweight children also dropped from 36 percent to 33 percent between 2011 and 2014.

Although Bangladesh’s economy has progressed and the country has experienced a reduction in poverty, food insecurity remains a concern for about 35 percent of its citizens. The International Food Policy Research Institute recommends that children who consume at least four different food groups a day will be 22 percent less likely to experience stunting. In spite of the food insecurity, each day there are more possibilities for making nutrition attainable for poor countries.

Processed Foods

A very common misconception among big companies and corporations is that poor countries would not be able to purchase their food. Therefore, many companies do not venture to sell to these countries in fear of failure. However, in countries like Bangladesh, India and Nigeria, people purchase over 80 percent of the food rather than relying on home-grown. In Bangladesh, 75 to 90 percent of low-income urban consumers and about 40 percent of low-income rural consumers purchase their food. Fifty to 70 percent of the food people purchase in these countries is processed.

Although there are many unhealthy packaged foods, there is also a market for nutritional processed goods. A study in Nepal found that 80 to 90 percent of the country’s children of 6 to 23 months of age ate commercially-produced packaged foods. In Nigeria, people buy 80 million MAGGI bouillon broth cubes every day. These bouillon cubes carry essential nutritional qualities such as iron and other key micronutrients. There is a need for more similarly packaged and processed foods that provide nutritional density and quality.

Making Nutrition Attainable

In an effort to improve the situation, Groupe Danone and Grameen Bank collaborated to make a fortified yogurt factory in Bangladesh. Danone is the world’s largest yogurt maker with more than $21 billion in annual sales. Muhammad Yunus, the Bangladeshi microfinance pioneer and founder of Grameen Bank, first suggested making baby food, however, a yogurt factory became the ultimate choice.

The company is successfully putting enough vitamin A, iron, zinc and iodine into the 60 and 80-gram cups of yogurt to meet 30 percent of a child’s daily needed diet. Overall, the local children who are often poor and malnourished benefit from the yogurts the factory produces. There is still a lot of work to do. The consumer demand increasing in the U.S. leads many businesses to cut sugar out of their products by at least 20 percent. However, for countries in Africa and Asia, there has yet to be this kind of motion.

The Danone and Grameen Factory Help People

The Danone and Grameen factory’s main goal is not to make large revenue, but rather to provide nutrition and education. Professor Muhammad Yunus of Grameen Bank hopes to share a lesson in manufacturing, business and humanitarian efforts for the developing world and the West. He believes that in starting this project, “You don’t see the money-making aspect, but how you can help people.” The project has employed the rural community through its links with the farmers which serve the factory. The yogurt company pays the local workers and farmers more than any customer does. Many employees are earning $60 a week, a substantial amount for rural Bangladesh.

Many private sector companies are hesitant to step into this effort because of the misinformation that affordable nutrition cannot be profitable. Professor Yunus hopes to educate these companies by challenging them to begin thinking about running their businesses in a different manner. For Danone, this project provides a clearer understanding of marketing food in South Asia and entering in a more profitable market in India.

The Impact

Danone and organizations like Feed the Future strive to make nutrition attainable in Bangladesh. As of January 2018, the U.S. Government selected Bangladesh as one of the 12 Feed the Future target countries. Feed the Future, under the U.S. Government Global Food Security Strategy, is a global hunger and food security initiative. It has established a strategy for making nutrition attainable. Feed the Future aims to intensify production while diversifying agriculture. It uses high-value, multi-nutrient products. Feed the Future’s target beneficiaries include rice farmers, the landless poor who are net purchasers of rice, small and medium-size farmers who can diversify production, agricultural-based enterprises and people employed in the fishing and aquaculture sector. In poor countries, companies such as Danone make nutrition attainable by placing more importance on those in need than on the profit it makes. Government organizations like Feed the Future also help in providing food security to poor countries like Bangladesh.

– Francisco Benitez
Photo: USAID

life expectancy North Korea

Korea was divided into the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in the north and the Republic of Korea in the south due to opposing political ideologies. Before the 1990s, the World Bank estimated that the life expectancy of North Korea was similar to that of South Korea. Men were expected to live to 65.9 years, and women 73 years. Here are 10 facts about life expectancy in North Korea that will list what factors have had the largest impact on the growth or decline or this rate.

10 Facts About Life Expectancy in North Korea

  1. The 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union in Russia led to an economic decline that ultimately decreased North Korea’s life expectancy. This decline was the direct cause of the mid-1990s famine in North Korea, which caused a mortality crisis that lowered its life expectancy by 5.6 years in men and 4.7 years in women.
  2. Though North Korea shares a similar issue with South Korea regarding mortality rates among small children and adults older than 55, the famine-affected North Korea more heavily, leading to a gap between the two countries of 11.14 years among men and 9.90 years among women by the year 2008.
  3. Currently, North Korean men are expected to live to 68.2 years and female life expectancy is 75.5 years. This places the country as 103 on the ranking of life expectancy rates. Unlike several countries in the top 10, North Korea’s national leading cause of death is not suicide, but rather stroke. This is also different from its leading cause for the life expectancy gap between North and South Korea, which is infant mortality.
  4. South Koreans may live longer, but North Koreans have more babies. For the past decade, South Korea has struggled to boost its birth rate, hitting an all-time low in 2017 with only 1.05 births per woman. In comparison, North Korea had a birth rate of 1.91.
  5. Food shortages were thought to be the primary reason why North Koreans also fell behind South Koreans in terms of height, with an average difference of 3-8 cm. Some originally thought that this difference was the result of genetics, but Professor Daniel Schwekendiek from Sungkyunkwan University in Seoul rejected this claim. Additionally, Schewekendiek disproved the theory that North Korean refugees are shorter as a result of poverty. The height difference can provide some insight into the correlation between a person’s height and their life expectancy.
  6. North Korea has directed the majority of its funds to its military. An estimated 25 percent of the nation’s GFP is going into these programs. A major cause of young men leaving the workplace is that most take part in some form of military training. As a result, although 40 percent of its population currently lives below the poverty line, North Korea has the world’s fourth-largest army.
  7. North Korea ranks pretty low among countries in terms of carbon emissions. In 2013, North Koreans kept their emissions to 63.8 metric tons while South Koreans put out more than 10 times as much with 673.5 metric tons. This gap has been one of the most significant factors of North Korea’s recent rise in life expectancy. While there are still debates about a nation’s level of carbon emissions and its overall effect on the world, a lot of studies have proven that there is a relationship between carbon emissions, life expectancy and income.
  8. North Koreans struggle with poverty. Citizens of nations with low carbon emissions are predicted to be unable to achieve higher levels of income. This is because these low-emission nations tend to have a stronger focus on exporting goods in order to keep its economy afloat. While these low carbon emissions provide a healthier territorial range for its citizens, without a moderately sufficient and independent economy, the majority of North Koreans still remain in lower-income levels of poverty.
  9. North Koreans have attempted to redirect their focus to their country’s nutrition and health problems. The government has taken steps to increase the number of young children receiving Vitamin A supplements in order to combat the effects of North Korea’s many food shortages. The World Health Organization encouraged the consumption of Vitamin A in 2000. Additionally, North Korea has mandated that nutrition be a part of medical curricula.
  10. In the past, North Korea has prided itself on being a self-reliant country. However, this attitude has been theorized to be the primary cause of the nation’s chronic food shortages since the nation was reluctant to request international food aid. However, after the North Korea’s 2008 population census revealed its significantly poor health conditions, North Korea began a collaboration with the World Health Organization Centre for Primary Health Care Development to improve the nation’s poor health situation.

North Korea’s reclusive and secretive nature means that there is still a lot that remains unknown. However, these 10 facts about life expectancy in North Korea provide some insight into what areas may need more attention from the country’s government and international human rights organizations.

Jordan Melinda Washington
Photo: Unsplash

solution to diabetes and obesity
Currently, almost 80 percent of diabetes deaths occur in low or middle-income countries. Halo Life Sciences, a company based in Austin, Texas, plans to change that. It has developed a product that it calls Naturalin, a naturally occurring phytonutrient that can go into snack foods, dairy, protein products, beverages and more. The addition of Naturalin makes these products far more nutritious. Naturalin has a massive potential to enact positive change in the food industry in a number of nations around the world as a solution for diabetes and obesity.

Naturalin Basics

Entrepreneur Michael Reyes originally developed Naturalin as a response to the growing number of obese, diabetic and pre-diabetic individuals in developing countries. Island nations such as the Marshall Islands, Tuvalu and Nauru have the highest rates of diabetes in the world. Individuals who are diabetic often contract the disease because their bodies are insulin resistant. Many different things can cause insulin resistance, but it is closely associated with excess weight and body fat. This, in turn, places an undue burden on both these individuals and the health care providers in these countries, as individuals with diabetes often require specific medications, such as short and long-acting insulin, amylinomimetic drugs, alpha-glucosidase inhibitors and DPP-4. Naturalin can help reduce this burden by fortifying common foods such as rice and flour. In addition to its nutritional benefits, Naturalin is a sustainable product and is a renewable resource, ensuring that it will be available for usage by future generations.

Plans for Expansion

Halo Life Sciences is currently in the process of getting Naturalin into markets around the world, including in Brazil, India, China and Israel. The company has partnered with a number of individuals and corporations in these countries. It is also planning to start developing its own CPG’s (consumer packaged goods) that will already have Naturalin in them. These recent developments will likely result in Halo Life Sciences receiving investments from those who see Naturalin’s potential as a solution for diabetes and obesity. Such investments will make the process of expanding into global markets much easier.

Potential Roadblocks

While Naturalin has the potential to enact real global change, it does face some potential roadblocks in the implementation process. For one, a strong marketing campaign must back the product, so that people know about its benefits. Halo Life Sciences has already done some work on this end, as it has invested heavily in scientific research; researches at the University of Texas-Austin validated Naturalin as safe, functional and effective when they tested it. However, it must continue to work on getting its message out to people around the globe. The company must also navigate the oftentimes tricky process of delivering its product into rural communities. If Naturalin can deal with these two potential roadblocks, it will be able to thrive as a product in countless nations around the world.

Changing the World

Naturalin has the capacity to change the world for the better by being a solution for diabetes and obesity. It provides individuals with a quick and easy way to consume more nutritious food, and upon implementation, will almost certainly reduce the total number of individuals suffering from diabetes and obesity worldwide. It is, without a doubt, a very promising solution to one of the most pressing issues facing the modern world.

– Kiran Matthias
Photo: Pixabay

childhood anemia in peruAnemia has always been a problem for the most vulnerable sectors in the Peruvian population, where access to basic needs, such as nutritional food and good healthcare, is scarce. These realities hit hard on the Peruvian Andes, where around 40 percent of families live in extreme poverty, and 30 percent of their children are severely malnourished, causing them to develop anemia.

The illness can be very damaging, especially for children. Fortunately for them, the 25-year-old, agro-industrial graduate Julio Garay, came up with a simple, yet very efficient solution: a cookie.

How A Cookie is Beating Childhood Anemia in Peru

Garay was born in a rural area located in the province of Ayacucho, where, due to the poor living conditions, one out of three children developed some anemic condition. He even had the illness at age five, which caused him growth and developmental problems later in life.

Luckily, he had the chance to fight back at the illness when he began to study agro-industrial engineering at the Saint Cristobal of Humanga University. For his final thesis, he decided to develop a nutritional cookie that will not only combat anemia in his hometown in Ayacucho, but all of Peru.

The Miracle Components

The cookie is a mix of different ingredients that are known for their high nutritional value: quinoa, bovine blood, kiwicha, chia and cacao. Coming to this final mix was not an easy task for Garay, since the first set of trials were unsuccessful in their mission of raising hemoglobin levels. They also had a sour taste due to the bovine blood that made it very difficult for a child to like.  To improve its taste, Garay decided to add cacao to the mix, improving the flavor significantly. The use of eggs mixed with bovine blood helped to raise the amount of iron supplement in the cookie to 20 mg, the highest in the market.

First Success

In the small community of Mollepate, in Garay’s native region of Ayacucho, the levels of childhood anemia are alarming. It was the perfect place to see if the cookie, later named Nutri Hierro, would significantly raise the standards of hemoglobin in the kids. The parents were instructed to give their kids one packet of Nutri Hierro per day for 30 days, to increase their chances of beating anemia. In the end, their children will go through another medical diagnosis to see if there was any improvement.
The results were favorable; the kids who at the beginning had 10 levels of hemoglobin raised those levels to 15 by the end of the month trial.

What Comes Next: Addressing Childhood Anemia in Peru

Many Peruvian laboratories and business enterprises had their eyes already set on this miracle cookie. However, despite many offers, Garay wanted to start his own company, especially after seeing Nutri Hierro was in high demand. Although he would have to sell his cookies at 50 cents for profit, he reduced the price to 25 cents, making it accessible to impoverished families. Other countries, such as Bolivia and Ecuador, have also requested the product.

Garay does not want to stop here. He is currently developing other dietary supplements that will help brain development in small children, as well as developing vegan options. Safe to say, there are high hopes to not only to eradicate anemia in the most impoverished provinces but also in all Peru.

– Adriana Ruiz
Photo: Flickr

Biotechnology in the Philippines
Biotechnology in the Philippines is so important that a new biotechnology center is being built to support the Philippine Department of Agriculture. The project is being funded mainly by the U.S. Agricultural Trade Development and Assistance Act, Public Law 480. Agriculture makes up 20 percent of the Philippine’s GDP, yet Filipinos dependent on agriculture as their main source of income are some of the poorest in the nation.

Biotechnology in the Philippines

Biotechnology is a science that allows farmers to be more efficient and environmentally conscious by growing more crops resistant to pests and diseases on less land. This scientific advancement is essential in the nation, as almost half of Filipinos work in agriculture and the country is experiencing significant population growth.

Rice is a staple in Filipino culture, but it is not the most nutritious of foods. Biotechnology in the Philippines is helping researchers develop Golden Rice, which is genetically modified rice that contains Vitamin A — a vital nutrient for human health. Just by increasing food production, biotechnology works to assist an ever-changing world facing overpopulation, starvation and climate change.  Climate change is changing the way people farm, as droughts and deforestation alter the amount of water that can be used for farming.

“The goal of constructing this center is to generate improved technologies, increase productivity, and enhance commercial value of DA’s priority crops such as rice, abaca, coconut, white and yellow corn, cotton, cassava, sweet potato, yam, tomato, and eggplant,” Dr. Roel R. Suralta, head of DA’s Crop Biotechnology Center.

Producing more crops more rapidly means more money in Filipino farmer’s pockets, and creating pest-resistant crops with the help of biotechnology will increase the likelihood that crops will be lucrative once harvested.

The Philippine Rice Research Institute

The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) is the other main partner for the new biotechnology building in the Philippines. The organization was created in 1985 by the Filipino Department of Agriculture to ensure that the production of rice in the Philippines could feed all Filipinos. PhilRice’s mission is simple: produce quality rice to make sustainable and environmentally sound profits.

Biotechnology and plant breeding help rice crops stay pest-resistant in economically sound and sustainable ways. PhilRice also researches the creation of new, more nutrient-dense and water-efficient soil, and genetic modification of rice strains works to make the most cost-effective, pest-resistant breeds.

While the Rice Chemistry and Food Science Division analyzes the progress of these new technologies, the Rice Engineering and Mechanization Division looks to develop farm machinery for pre- and post-production to modernize rice farming operations. Such efforts have been met with policy support to ensure such new technologies and practices are successfully put into practice.

A communication team has also been put in place to educate and bring awareness to farmers and the general public on Rice Science for Development (RS4D). Training and education of new technologies and methods are projected to increase productivity and income for farmers.

Future Growth

In 1954, President Eisenhower enacted PL 480 in the United States to ensure that the U.S. provides food assistance abroad. Aside from continued research, the new building and continued efforts in the Philippines will uphold this 70 year-old promise, and educate and train people to utilize biotechnology for international good.

Biotechnology in the Philippines increased the agriculture market by $642 million, and 14 climate change resistant rice strains have been created in recent years. The strains in-use now only take 5 to 7 years to breed as opposed to 10 to 12, and such results provide international hope for feeding ever-growing populations and combating a changing climate. For these reasons, it’s essential for U.S. foreign aid to continue and for biotechnology in the Philippines to remain active in agriculture.

– Hope Kelly
Photo: Flickr

Consequences of Micronutrient Deficiencies
According to the Food Aid Foundation, 1/9 people on earth do not have access to enough food to ensure proper nourishment. Malnutrition is defined by the Oxford Living Dictionary as the “lack of proper nutrition, caused by not having enough to eat, not eating enough of the right things, or being unable to use the food that one does eat.”

Defining Malnutrition

This definition, although correct, hardly captures the severity of its meaning. A clear scientific explanation of malnutrition better illuminates the severity of the pervasive issue that exists primarily amongst those who live in poverty. Micronutrients — which are vitamins and minerals — are non-energy yielding compounds which the body requires to run efficiently. For example, the water-soluble vitamins (all of the B vitamins) are coenzymes which facilitate all of the bodies’ metabolic functions.

In light of their vitality to physiological homeostasis, a deficiency in any one of the micronutrients causes a wide variety of negative side effects. Iodine deficiencies cause goiters, iron deficiency causes anemia and vitamin B12 deficiencies can cause a wide variety of neurological defects, including symptoms of psychological disorders (depression, memory loss, sense perception loss etc.). It is clear that the consequences of micronutrient deficiencies are quite dire.

Consequences of Micronutrient Deficiencies

Given the importance of consuming the adequate amount of micronutrients — and the results of not doing so with even one of them — imagine having a lack of most micronutrients. Most people living in developed countries have adequate food intake, yet they are still deficient in a variety of micronutrients due to poor dietary choices. The consequences of micronutrient deficiencies are much more severe in the case of developing countries, where rates of starvation are higher than those of developed countries.

Considering how easy it is to be deficient in certain micronutrients due to simple nutritional ignorance, the level of micronutrient deficiencies –which in turn cause very negative health consequences — in developing countries where poverty is high and nutritional adequacy is low is much higher than in western countries where the contrary is the case. At the very least, 795 million people in the world experience severe negative symptoms due to lack of food.

For example, 84 percent of children in Kenya and 64 percent in India have a Vitamin A deficiency, whereas in a western country like Poland deficiencies in children are at less than 10 percent. These figures illustrate how countries that have a lower GDP per capita — and thus higher rates of poverty — often experience a higher rate/severity of cases of micronutrient deficiencies.

To cover all the micronutrients would be tedious; however, reviewing the statistics regarding the consequences of being deficient — specifically due to lack of food — proves extremely beneficial. The problem is extremely pervasive as one fourth of children’s growth is stunted globally due to malnutrition, poor nutrition causes 45 percent of child deaths ages 5 & below and malnutrition causes the death of 2.6 million children annually.

The above information may be unsettling, but understanding such disturbing information is the first step to changing such occurrences for the better. With concerted effort, the consequences of micronutrient deficiencies need not be as severe as they currently are.

Current and Future Progress

Progress on micronutrient deficiencies has certainly been made — prevalence and number of children suffering from stunted growth due to malnutrition has been on a slow but steady decline. There are specific examples of this, such as in Uganda, where the rate of stunting due to malnutrition has decreased from 33 percent in 2011 to 29 percent in 2016. In fact, the government of Uganda and its allies (the U.N.) have a  goal to totally eradicate malnutrition by 2030.

U.N. efforts in scaling up nutrition interventions has been very effective in reducing the rate of malnutrition. However, according to the World Bank, efforts to reach the 2030 goal would need an additional $70 billion of funding by 2025. Funding itself is the evident driver of progress. For example, investing in Peru’s malnutrition problem reduced stunting rates by 20 percent over a 20 year period.  

Ways to Help Combat Malnutrition

Many may ask, what can be done to help prevent this crisis from getting more out of hand? First and foremost, more people from all walks of life need to invest in nutrition. It is calculated that each dollar spent on nutrition delivers between $8 and $138 of benefits, according to the Copenhagen Consensus Center.

For more broad ways to help fight against world hunger and its negative consequences, donating to charitable foundations such as the World Food Programme, UNICEF, Feeding America, Feed the Hunger Foundation and others is something anyone can do to support the cause. Something “small” can make a huge difference, so it’s up to every willing individual to help solve this crisis.   

– Daniel Lehewych
Photo: Flickr

Malnourishment has decreased
In many parts of the world, malnourishment has been a fatal problem — not just for children, but also for communities. Today, malnourishment has decreased but continues to affect children globally. Despite this prevalence, strides have been made and malnourishment is becoming less and less detrimental for people, children especially, in numerous parts of the globe.

Facts of Malnourishment

Malnourishment involves a dietary deficiency — a poor diet may lead to a lack of vitamins, minerals and other essential substances. Too little protein can lead to kwashiorkor, symptoms of which include a distended abdomen. In addition, a lack of vitamin C can result in scurvy.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), 462 million people worldwide are malnourished, and possess stunted development due to poor diet; this affects 159 million children globally.

Stunting in Senegal

When this millennium began, malnourishment was highly prevalent in most poor countries across the planet. In Senegal, however, stunting affected as many as 30 percent of children under five years of age. Stunting in growth is the result of long-term malnourishment.

In Senegal, stunting has life-long consequences such as: the reduction of cognitive abilities, limited school attainment, decreases in adult wages and can make children less likely to escape poverty as adults. The solution to these outcomes lies in holistic monitoring and feeding.

Within the globe, 1 in 4 children are stunted in growth; today, Senegal has a rate of 19 percent of stunted children. This makes it the lowest rate in any sub-Saharan African nation. Thanks to efforts from the Nutrition Policy Coordination Unit in the Prime Minister’s office — who worked with local governments, public service providers and NGOs — nutrition services have been delivered to in-need communities and households.

The services included health education, breastfeeding promotion, infant and young child feeding counseling, monthly weighing sessions, micronutrient supplementation, conditional cash transfers, targeted food security support and more.

Importance of Good Nutrition

The best chance a child has for growth is in access to good nutrition; child survival and development both stem from a healthy start. Children who are well nourished are more equipped to grow, learn and participate in the community, and are also much more resilient in the face of disease or disaster.

Malnourishment is often linked to nearly half of childhood deaths under the age of five; this figure calculates roughly to about 3 million young lives a year. For millions of children, chronic malnourishment results in stunting, irreversible physical and mental growth.

The first 1,000 days of a mother’s pregnancy are when malnourishment begins to take hold of the child; thankfully, by focusing on these first 1,000 days, UNICEF has helped cut the number of children affected by stunting by nearly 100 million since 1990.

First Steps of Progress

Now more than ever, millions of children’s lives are being saved on a grand and global scale. Within the last decade, malnourishment has decreased despite its continuance to globally affect children.

This progress is only the beginning — the start of the first 1,000 days to help prevent malnourishment from taking life away from those who’ve yet to begin to live it. To continue in the fight for the children is to continue to allow life to be at its best.

– Gustavo Lomas
Photo: Flickr

Poverty A Factor in High Rates of Obesity in India
Alongside rising poverty rates, India’s population has encountered elevated cases of nutrition-related diseases. However, as a result of the fast-food proliferation movement caused by the multi-spread of fast food industries through globalization, the problem of obesity in India succeeded in outweighing its underweight and malnourishment issues due to its multiple life-threatening comorbidities.

With 270 million people reported as living below the poverty line, India was not previously seen to be at risk of obesity which was correlated with higher and more frequent access to food. Yet, the Indian lifestyle altered dramatically, from an active mode of living requiring constant strength and mobility in agricultural fields and industrial sectors to a sedentary lifestyle dependent on machines and technological innovations brought upon the country by the developed nations in the form of transnational corporations.

According to the Lancet journal in 2013, the percentage of obesity in India ranked the nation as one of the top 10 countries having the highest proportion of obese citizens. In fact, India and China together contributed to 15 percent of the world’s obesity, with a total of 46 million Chinese and 30 million Indian obese people.

 

New Food and Dietary Patterns

Globalization and the expansion of transnational corporations have been continuously associated as two main underlying causes of the obesity epidemic witnessed in developing countries. Foreign trade through multinational companies paved the pathway for increasing the availability of international food products and foreign brands at reduced prices.

This shift in dietary patterns and the quality of food products in the markets not only negatively affected the profit of local farmers and the country’s overall economy, but it also led to the development of a double burden of disease on the healthcare system. On the one hand, infectious and communicable diseases continue to strive and cause seasonal outbreaks; on the other, the afterthoughts of obesity including heart disease, liver damage and diabetes reflect the dangerous health impact of obesity through high incidence and prevalence rates.

 

Impact of Obesity in India

Dr. Anoop Misra, chairman of the National Diabetes, Obesity, and Cholesterol Foundation, highlighted obesity in India as one of the most concerning health issues for the country’s population, particularly among children. According to Misra, recent childhood obesity statistics are alarming as the intra-abdominal and truncal subcutaneous adiposity features in children tend to expose them to further lifelong comorbidities such as type II diabetes. Misra also asserted the crucial need for intervention programs in the country addressing obesity through healthy nutrition, physical activity, and stress management.

 

Measures for Improvement

Despite the significant impact caused by obesity on the overall development of the country, only few steps and initiatives have been taken to address the problem. Certain non-profit organizations provide resources for the youth and their parents to help them fight obesity, while medical professionals tend to recommend bariatric surgery rather than preventive treatment due to higher effectiveness and efficiency.

Future efforts in the country should be directed towards primary prevention, including educational and awareness campaigns, physical education opportunities and access to healthy/locally grown food at lower prices. Such attempts could contribute in proactively lowering the rates of obesity in India rather than relying on expensive means to fight the problem.

– Lea Sacca

Photo: Flickr

FoodTechAfrica
Twenty four million people have been affected by the disastrous patterns of droughts in East Africa. These droughts have led to diminished crop yields and have created serious food insecurity in addition to decreased water sources. However, FoodTechAfrica (FTA), a Dutch organization comprised of many agro-food companies, has proposed a plan to feed people throughout East Africa by establishing sustainable fisheries throughout the region.

Growing Populations and Growing Hunger

As populations in East Africa continue to rise, the threat of food insecurity looms even greater. In their current condition, East African countries are simply unable to meet the demand for food, making food extremely expensive and its availability uncertain.

Widespread food insecurity has significant health consequences. Throughout East Africa, 800,000 children suffer from complications resulting from malnutrition. In Ethiopia, 4.3 million people without access to food and water require medical assistance. An estimated six million people in South Sudan are in need of food and water.

While the food crisis in East Africa is serious, it is getting better. Since 1990, protein-energy malnutrition has decreased by 35.7 percent in Kenya and nearly 70 percent in Ethiopia.

Aquaculture

FoodTechAfrica’s goal is to increase food security in East Africa using aquaculture, a form of food production very common in the Netherlands. Aquaculture is essentially fish farming, which can be conducted on small, household scales or at industrial levels, with minimal harm to the environment. Fish are a protein and nutrient-rich resource that can be produced sustainably, feeding millions of hungry people and appeasing malnutrition.

Unlike livestock farming, aquaculture requires little land to produce large yields. Farming fish rather than fishing from seas and rivers allows for the nutritional benefits of fish without the environmental damage of over-fishing. FTA’s aquaculture methods involve recirculation throughout fish pens, which conserves precious water.

Food and Jobs

FoodTechAfrica has set its sights not only on providing food throughout East Africa, but also jobs. The Kamuthanga Fish Farm, created by FTA, is the largest aquaculture operation in Kenya. This facility alone provides 58 skilled positions to local workers and is training even more. FTA has ensured that at least 25 of these jobs belong to women. Kamuthanga is capable of producing up to 1000 tonnes (1,000,000 kilograms) of fish per year, which is enough to feed approximately 140,000 people.

As FTA establishes more fisheries in more countries, more food and jobs are created. While the plan is simple, its execution will help assuage the complex issue of hunger in East Africa.

– Mary Efird

Photo: Flickr