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

Hunger in DjiboutiDjibouti is a small country located on the northeast coast of Africa, adjacent to the Red Sea. The former French colony has been facing a severe food and water crisis for several decades. With a population of nearly 850,000, the country ranks 172nd out of 188 countries on the Human Development Index. Needless to say, Djibouti is high on the list of countries needing foreign aid in terms of clean water, food and the tools to become self-sufficient. Despite these priorities, hunger in Djibouti remains a serious issue.

Hunger in Djibouti can be chalked up to a few different causes. Djibouti relies heavily on trade, and because of this, it has a concentrated urban center in which trade can take place and shipments may be sent by rail, air and road. However, one-third of the population resides in small villages surrounding this center, making the transport of materials and supplies extremely difficult. Djibouti also suffers from poor conditions for farming such as drought, which means a large percentage of food sources must be imported, perpetuating the hunger deficit. Because Djibouti is reliant on nutritional imports, they are often at the mercy of market prices that their weak economy cannot always support. Even slight variations in food prices can have hugely detrimental consequences for families.

Fortunately, international programs are working toward a lasting solution to hunger in Djibouti. The World Food Programme has been working since the late 1970s to prioritize government support in stabilizing the hunger issue. Projects the World Food Programme has made headway on include providing nutrition to women and children, for refugees, and in schools. Action Against Hunger is also making progress with hunger in Djibouti. In 2016, the agency brought nutritional support to over 1,000 people, aided in water access for over 4,000 and supported economic self-sufficiency for nearly 650.

These agencies may not be eliminating hunger in Djibouti entirely, but they are working toward providing the people of Djibouti with lasting development plans that have the potential to become self-sustaining solutions.

Casey Hess

Photo: Flickr

How to Help People in Africa
There are many ways to help people in Africa. With many of its countries referred to as underdeveloped nations, it is easy to understand why. This is the reason why so many people who want to help turn their attention to the disenfranchised of Africa. For those interested in how to help people in Africa, this article will try to provide a place to start.

 

Water
One problem that affects the people of Africa is the most vital resource of all life—water. Developing nations experience the issue of unclean water most severely, with as much as 80 percent of illnesses being traced back to poor water and sanitation quality. In sub-Saharan Africa, 319 million people are without access to improved reliable drinking water.

An organization that looks to curb this imminent problem is The Water Project, an organization dedicated to providing safe, clean water to all people worldwide. They accomplish this by working with local teams in the affected region and, through this cooperation, create and implement clean water programs.

A person looking for how to help people in Africa can find a great method through this organization. One of the most helpful and readily available ways to help this group is by donating to help The Water Project carry out its projects.

Another way to help The Water Project is by creating a fundraising page. There have been over 3,000 fundraising pages created that have raised more than $3 million. There are even more ways to lend a helping hand, including starting a campaign, taking “the water challenge” and becoming a member.

 

Food and Nutrition
Another problem that many impoverished people in Africa face is lack of proper nutrition, or lack of food altogether. This is especially the case in the Horn of Africa (the peninsula in the east, including Somalia and Ethiopia), where 11 million people are in urgent need of food assistance.

Anyone looking for how to help people in Africa can do so by assisting the World Food Programme (WFP), an organization dedicated to helping the world’s hungry through grassroots methods that has helped over 80 million people in 80 different countries since its inception.

To help, the WFP has listed ten different ways for the average citizen to lend assistance to those in need. These methods include donating both by computer and by text message, spreading the word through sending online quizzes and informational videos, using social media and much more, all of which are simple and easy to do from home.

 

Volunteering Abroad
Volunteering is a great way to get involved in a more grassroots fashion. For those wondering how to help people in Africa in a way that is a bit more involved, volunteering abroad provides an excellent opportunity.

By visiting the Projects Abroad website, one can find a wealth of information about how to volunteer on the ground in Africa. Margot Le Neveu, who worked in Ghana, gives a taste of what it is like to volunteer with orphans in Africa. She says, “Working at the orphanage was my favorite part of my trip to Ghana. The wood market and bead market were nice to visit, however I really loved playing with all the children at the orphanage.”

Projects Abroad offers several different ways to volunteer, including with day care centers and kindergartens, special needs children and at orphanages themselves. This service provides much-needed growth, stability and social interaction to children that would otherwise do without. Volunteers working through the Projects Abroad programs say they feel that they are “really making a difference”.

All of these organizations offer a variety of ways to help people in Africa. No matter which option you choose, you can know that your assistance is making a vital difference in the lives of impoverished people.

Stephen Praytor

Photo: Flickr

 

Donate to fight global poverty today

 

How to Help People in SenegalSenegal is a West African nation on the coast of the Atlantic Ocean. To give an idea of its size, Senegal is slightly smaller than South Dakota in terms of square miles. The population is about 14 million people. Like other African nations, Senegal is considered a developing nation. This means that the country experiences problems that other more developed nations do not face, like a lack of resources such as food and clean water. Food is especially a problem in underdeveloped countries, and Senegal is no exception. If you want to know how to help people in Senegal, nutrition and food security are excellent places to start, and can ultimately save lives.

Good indicators of a nation’s issues with sufficient food are obesity as well as underweight statistics, especially for underweight children. According to the CIA World Factbook, Senegal has an obesity rate of 8.3 percent as of 2014. Among other nations, this ranks them close to the bottom, at 145 out of 191 nations. The percentage of children below age 5 that are underweight is 12.8 percent, putting them close to the top of nations with underweight children (based on percentage).

One organization dedicated to fighting hunger in Senegal is Caritas Internationalis. Caritas is a group that was created to reach out to the poor of the world, regardless of race or religion, and to assist those in need when a disaster strikes. Caritas, inspired by the Catholic church, seeks to take on extreme poverty through the grassroots method, putting people on the ground in impoverished communities in order to lend a direct helping hand.

For Senegal itself, Caritas is “launching an emergency project” to help families that are in urgent need of care. Due to bad harvests, natural disasters and a dramatic rise in food prices, poor families have experienced the harshness of poverty even more severely, which means even less food. One out of five households in Senegal are going hungry.

Caritas seeks to help the Senegalese by providing food, such as rice, millet and oil, to over 1,000 families for at least three months. Their goal is to have these families eating three meals a day. There are also cereal banks throughout Senegal, providing 600 families with regular access to food. There are many other projects as well, including projects to ensure that farmers have proper amounts of seeds and tools.

For the person looking for how to help people in Senegal, helping Caritas might be a great way to assist those in need. One way to help this organization is by donating. Caritas has a very old-fashioned sort of charm, and also operates using older methods (being an organization that has existed for over a hundred years); this means that donating to them is not done directly through the computer. To give to Caritas, a check can be mailed to their headquarters, or you can make a direct transfer through a bank account.

If you are looking to go a little further in helping, Caritas also take volunteers from all over the world, especially those willing to help when disaster strikes. Discover where they work and contact them in regards to volunteering.

Of course, another great way to help can be found on the Borgen Project website, and is perhaps one of the simplest ways of all to help the impoverished. Calling Congress can get bills passed that allocate large amounts of funding to helping the poor and hungry of the world looked at by leaders.

Every call made about an issue gets tallied up by the interns who answer the phone and shown to the representative or senator. All that needs to be said is, “Hello, I’m a Borgen Project supporter and I support protecting the International Affairs Budget,” or whatever bill you choose to support (a list can be found in the link). And that’s the whole phone call. It can be done in an easy 30-second call, and becomes even more effective when one gets their family and friends to do it as well.

Stephen Praytor

Photo: Flickr

Cockroach Milk
You may want to think twice before killing your next cockroach. India’s Institute for Stem Cell Biology and Regenerative Medicine, or InSTEM, has discovered that cockroach milk may be the greatest protein source of them all. Milk being produced by a specific species of cockroach is estimated to contain more than three times the energy of an equivalent mass of dairy milk.

Most cockroaches are oviparous, or egg-laying animals. However, the Pacific beetle cockroach, or Diploptera punctata species, gives birth to live young by carrying them in a fleshy brood sac. Only this certain species of cockroach is viviparous, meaning they are among animals that give birth to young and nourish its offspring with milk protein.

Surprisingly enough, this specific milk protein is the very liquid substance packed with nutritious fats, sugars and proteins that are taking the protein game by storm. The “so-called” milk gets converted into concentrated protein crystals that are stored in the gut of the embryos.

It all began with the curiosity of Nathan Coussens, a young researcher out of the University of Iowa, who noticed shiny crystals pouring out of a roach gut one day in the lab. This discovery took place 10 years ago.

International teams, including InSTEM, have since broken down the structure of these crystallized milk proteins. More often than not, protein crystals obtained from living systems tend to be small and limited in size by the volume of the cell they grow in. This leaves scientists little room for investigation.

Scientists try very hard to obtain pure proteins with which to make crystals for X-ray crystallography studies, a technique employed to elucidate protein structure. Peculiarly enough, the milk crystals within roach guts grow large enough to be used for this type of technique.

“The crystals are like a complete food – they have proteins, fats and sugars. If you look into the protein sequences, they have all the essential amino acids,” said Sanchari Banerjee, one of the postdoctoral fellows at InSTEM, in an interview with the Times of India.

Now equipped with the gene sequences for these milk proteins, InSTEM’s lead biochemist on the project, Subramanian Ramaswamy, and colleagues plan to use a yeast system to produce these crystals. “They’re very stable. They can be a fantastic protein supplement,” says Ramaswamy.

If everything goes according to plan, InSTEM will synthesize the protein-rich milk and market it as a supplemental food. The scaffolding in the milk protein crystals shows compelling characteristics — ones that could be used to design nanoparticles for drug delivery. It’ll be interesting to see if and how cockroach milk is rolled out over the next few years.

Keaton McCalla

Ghana's economy

A new report by the United Nations concluded that widespread child under-nutrition has taken a toll on Ghana’s economy.

The report, The Cost of Hunger in Africa: Social and Economic Impact of Child Undernutrition in Ghana, found that the effects of hunger and stunting cost Ghana $2.6 billion dollars per year.

The report argues that Ghana’s government must make nutrition more of a priority in national development planning in order to improve food security.

Chronic malnutrition and stunting afflicts 19 percent of Ghana’s population and is responsible for 24 percent of all child mortality cases. Some areas face more hunger than others as 30 percent of children under five in Ghana’s northern region are stunted.

Stunting occurs when adolescents are severely deprived of critical nutrients, such as proteins and minerals, while in the womb or during the first two years of life. According to the report, 37 percent of Ghana’s adult population suffered from stunting as children.

Malnutrition and stunting have significant long-term consequences on individual development and Ghana’s economy. Chronic health and food insecurity have resulted in higher health care expenses, additional burdens on the national education system and lower productivity by Ghana’s workforce.

The effects of stunting are also felt in Ghana’s educational system. Children who are underfed are more likely to miss, repeat classes and drop out of school.

The report estimates that of the current working population aged 20 to 64, 72 percent of people who were stunted as a child completed primary school compared to 80 percent of those who were not stunted.

The report further says that repeating grades “increases the demand that the education system must meet, with the resulting costs in infrastructure, equipment, human resources and educational input.” In 2012, the 19,720 students who repeated a grade cost Ghana’s education system approximately $12.85 million.

Malnutrition also limits adults’ ability to work and contribute to Ghana’s economy. In manual work, such as agriculture, people affected by stunting lack the strength necessary to match the production and efficiency of individuals who are healthier.

Non-manual workers who are stunted also produce less output because they received fewer years of schooling than people who were adequately nourished as children.

The U.N. recommends that the government invest more in nutrition policies and interventions to boost the overall health of Ghanaians. Better coordination among national agencies is necessary to create a more concerted approach to providing citizens with better nourishment.

The report notes that forging partnerships with private organizations and non-state actors will help the government “accelerate the development and implementation of malnutrition prevention strategies.”

Health officials can also raise more awareness about ways that people can improve their nutrition and health.

Sam Turken

Photo: Flickr