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Project Healthy Children

Global hunger is one of the most pressing and visible poverty-related issues in our world today. People can easily recognize the defined ribs, sunken eyes and bone-thin limbs of starvation. However, there is another side to hunger that is not as obvious: micronutrient deficiency.

Micronutrients are vitamins and minerals such as zinc, iron, iodine, vitamin A and folic acid. In developed nations like the United States, most people get these critical nutrients from maintaining a well-rounded diet or taking a daily supplement. But it isn’t always that simple in some other parts of the world. In fact, micronutrient deficiency remains a big problem in Eastern and Southern Africa but often does not get the attention it deserves because the effects are not immediately visible. For this reason, micronutrient deficiency has been nicknamed “hidden hunger.”

Hidden hunger has real and long-lasting consequences. Insufficient amounts of vitamins and minerals can result in learning disabilities, mental retardation, low work capacity, blindness and premature birth. These deficiencies lower overall health and weaken the immune system, thus making it much harder to survive infections like HIV and measles. They can cause extreme birth defects in children and are the leading cause of maternal death during childbirth.

Background

Clearly, micronutrient deficiency is a pressing issue that deserves the attention necessary to mitigate it. An organization called Sanku’s Project Healthy Children (PHC) is doing just that through a process known as food fortification: essentially, they add critical micronutrients to the flour people already consume.

PHC is based in Tanzania and currently supplies almost 2 million people with fortified flour to help them get the vitamins and minerals they need. Flour is a staple food that many people consume regularly; according to the PHC website, “over 50 million Tanzanians eat maize flour every day,” but more than 95 percent of it is produced without added nutrients in small, rural mills. Countries like Tanzania are in desperate need of better access to micronutrients—here, about 35 percent of children under 5 years old have stunted growth due to under-nutrition. Project Healthy Children uses the mills and distribution systems already in place to simply add essential micronutrients to the flour with no additional cost for the consumer. This way, people can get the nutrition they need without changing their eating or purchasing habits.

Why Food Fortification?

  1.  It is cheap: Food fortification is very inexpensive, typically costing no more than $0.25 per person annually. In other words, one quarter donated is enough to supply someone with adequate nutrients for an entire year.
  2. It is effective: Improving nutrition can be highly beneficial to overall health, work capacity and productivity. Women who sustain good nutrition before getting pregnant greatly reduce the risk of maternal death and birth defects.
  3. It has a huge payback: The economic rewards of food fortification are astounding. The WHO estimates that the consequences of micronutrient deficiency (birth defects, learning disabilities, premature death, etc.) can cost a country about 5 percent of its GDP per year. Supplying people with critical vitamins and minerals puts less pressure on a country’s health care system and allows for a more productive workforce. In addition, the Copenhagen Consensus estimated that for every dollar spent on nutrition in young children, a country will save an average of $45 and sometimes as much as $166.

The Future of Project Healthy Children

In the past few years, Project Healthy Children has become even more streamlined in its approach to food fortification. A partnership with Vodafone, a mobile network based in the United Kingdom, allows PHC staff to remotely monitor flour mills so that they instantly know when a machine is down or a mill is low on nutrients. The partnership saves money, time and manpower, allowing PHC to run more smoothly.

Project Healthy Children currently helps nourish about 1.7 million people in sub-Saharan Africa but hopes to reach 100 million people by 2025, an ambitious goal that would be instrumental in lifting communities in Southern and Eastern Africa out of extreme poverty.

– Morgan Johnson
Photo: Flickr

Health Outcomes in Madagascar

Off the coast of Mozambique, 80 percent of Madagascar’s population lives in extreme poverty. In these conditions, malnutrition thrives, increasing the population’s susceptibility to diseases that are no longer fatal elsewhere, like tuberculosis and diarrhea. USAID estimates that 100 children in Madagascar die daily from common preventable diseases. One NGO, PIVOT, is trying to make a difference in health outcomes in Madagascar.

Health Care in Madagascar

In 2014, Madagascar boasted the lowest reported per capita health spending in the entire world, $13.56. Even though the 1948 Declaration of Human Rights declared health to be a basic human right, 50 percent of children suffer from chronic malnutrition and one in seven children die before the age of five in Madagascar. Further contributing to poor health outcomes in Madagascar, the country’s national health policy often demands that patients locate drugs and the money to pay for all services before seeking treatment.

Such a policy, with no possibility of delayed payment, often disincentives impoverished people who need care from seeking treatment. Health policies like this, coupled with poor a transportation infrastructure, make delivery and distribution of medical care and supplies very challenging. In rural villages in Madagascar, community health clinics are often a two to 12 hour hike depending upon the village. For those struggling with illness, such a hike is often not an option.

PIVOT’s Solution

In southeastern Madagascar in the Ifanadiana district, PIVOT “combines accessible and comprehensive health care services with rigorous scientific research to save lives and break cycles of poverty and disease.”After they establish a model health system in this district, they hope to export it to all of Madagascar and eventually resource poor areas all over the world.

Located in a mountainous rain-forested area in the Vatovavy-Fitovinany region of southeastern Madagascar, the Ifanadiana district is home to over 200,000 people. In 2014, Ifanadiana’s mortality rate for children under the age of five was more than double the rate for the rest of the country — coming in at 1,044 per 100,000 live births. PIVOT selected the Ifanadiana, saying, “if we can do it here, we can do it anywhere.”

Partnered with the Madagascar Ministry of Health, Partners in Health, Centre Val Bio and Harvard Medical School, PIVOT began in January 2014 to establish a model health district in Ifanadiana. While many of these partners seem logical, dealing with humans has been a change for Centre Val Bio, formerly a biodiversity research lab who was central to establishing the Ranomafana National Park in Ifanadiana. Madagascar is known for its extreme biodiversity; species live there who live nowhere else in the world.

Targeted at improving health outcomes in Madagascar, PIVOT’s model health district consists of a clinical program within a tiered system of community health centers, regional centers and hospital care. Their clinical programs include Emergency, Patient Accompaniment, Malnutrition, Tuberculosis, Maternal Health and Child Health. Within this clinical structure, PIVOT is pursuing an aggressive data collection program. The health indicators they are focusing on are focusing on Maternal Mortality, Under-Five Mortality, Lifetime Fertility, Composite Coverage Index and the Percentage of People Covered by PIVOT.

As of 2017, PIVOT was reaching 37 percent of the Ifanadiana district. By 2018, they were covering 61 percent of the population and as of 2019, 70 percent benefited from their services. PIVOT hopes that 2022 will mark complete coverage and a total implementation of Ifanadiana as a model health district under PIVOT’s protocols. PIVOT’s own data suggests that from 2014 to 2017 they oversaw a decline in both the maternal mortality rate and the under 5 mortality rate. The maternal mortality rate declined from 1,044 to 828 and the under 5 mortality rate fell from 136 to 114.

Working with the Ministry of Health, PIVOT is helping to implement pilot fee exemption programs. According to their data, only one-third of patients accessed facilities where point-of-service fees were in place; however, with the introduction of fee exemptions the use of healthcare increased by 65 percent for all patients, 52 percent for children and 25 percent for maternity consultations. The fee exemption pilot program cost on average 0.60 USD per patient. Currently, external donor support is essential to the survival of these programs.

Due to a successful democratic election in 2014, international sanctions were lifted which in turn opened the door to increased health spending from national and international sources. PIVOT seems to be making a difference in the Ifanadiana district, and hopefully their revolutionary model health district will spread to the rest of the country reshaping health outcomes in Madagascar as a whole.

– Sarah Boyer
Photo: Flickr

Facts about the Lake Chad Basin Crisis
The Lake Chad Basin crisis is a humanitarian emergency that is among the most severe in the world. This crisis began in 2009 with the violence caused in Nigeria by Boko Haram, an Islamic jihadist group that was formed in 2002. Since then, the conflict has also spread to Cameroon, Chad and Niger.

This humanitarian disaster has caused hunger, malnutrition and displacement in the region. Additionally, violence continues and Boko Haram even aims to prevent the delivery of humanitarian aid. Because the crisis is often overlooked, it is important to address the facts about the Lake Chad Basin crisis.

10 Facts About the Lake Chad Basin Crisis

  1. Although its mission now is to overthrow the Nigerian government, the Boko Haram group was originally created to resist western education and influence. The group is also against things like voting in elections, an education system without religion and dressing with shirts and pants because this reflects western influence.
  2. As of May 2016, around 20,000 people had been killed by the extremists. Additionally, as a result of the crisis, many children have been separated from their families and are often killed or recruited to join armed groups. Females are also subject to physical abuse, forced labor, rape, forced marriage and sexual assault.
  3. There are more than 17 million people living in the affected areas across the four Lake Chad Basin countries. Many who are living in these affected areas are solely dependent on humanitarian aid for survival.
  4. The conflict has resulted in around 2.4 million people being displaced. More than half of those who were displaced were children. Of these children, 50 percent were under the age of five when displaced from their homes.
  5. There is an increased risk of disease in the area since malnutrition rates have reached critical levels. Those who are suffering from the conflict often depend on international aid for medical assistance. This can be extremely problematic due to Boko Haram’s efforts to stop foreign aid from reaching the area.
  6. There are 5.2 million people in need of food assistance as a result of the conflict. Approximately 745,000 suffer from acute malnourishment. Of these people, 490,000 are children.
  7. Currently, around four million people are food insecure in the affected regions. Unfortunately, it is predicted that this will increase to almost five million in the lean season between June and August.
  8. The severity of the conflict and its consequences continues to increase. Civilians are frequently still under attack by the Boko Haram group. The number of internally displaced people continues to substantially rise in the region, even though millions of people have already been displaced.
  9. The U.N. estimates that nearly 11 million people in the region require and depend on humanitarian assistance for survival. Approximately 7.7 million people requiring aid are located in the northeastern region of Nigeria in the three most affected states: Borno, Adamawa and Yobe.
  10. Currently, it is estimated that around $1.58 billion will be required in aid to the region for 2018. Unfortunately, only $477 million, or approximately 30 percent of the goal, has been funded. It is important to encourage international assistance for this particular cause in order to ensure the survival of millions.

Many NGOs and foreign governments are working together to improve the living situation of those suffering from the Lake Chad Basin crisis. However, it is still important to urge senators and representatives to pass legislation that can assist in this humanitarian emergency that has left millions in need due to hunger, violence and displacement.

– Luz Solano-Flórez

Photo: Flickr

malnutrition in venezuelaA humanitarian hunger crisis has struck the country of Venezuela. The economy has hit rock bottom and moderate to severe child malnutrition in Venezuela has reached 11.4 percent for children under the age of five. The World Health Organization states that a threshold of 10 percent must be surpassed in order to declare a crisis, and Venezuela has well exceeded that threshold. Venezuela’s continuously unstable economy is to blame for the decrease in food and the increase in hunger.

When Venezuela struck massive amounts of oil during World War I, its economy skyrocketed. Its success with oil reserves led to a blossoming economy that assisted in providing its people with what they needed to thrive. However, Venezuela had only relied on the income from the oil industry to fuel its economy. With no economic backup plan, Venezuela was heading down a path of economic destruction.

Venezuela’s economy began its dramatic decline in the 1980s. After the oil price collapse and the accumulation of internal and external government debts, it became apparent that the country had a major financial burden to address. Economic policies to solve this issue were failing and the government was falling deeper into corruption, causing more economic instability.

The coming years would not be any brighter for Venezuela. Ongoing economic mismanagement led to increasing poverty levels. Venezuela went into a recession in 2014, invoking more worry for the country and putting more pressure on the government to make the right economic decisions. The government’s dysfunctional way of solving the country’s money problems eventually led to the worst economic decision to date.

Venezuela’s inflation levels became one of the highest in the world, reaching a record high of 800 percent in December 2016. This hyperinflation came after the Venezuelan government’s decision to enact an internal embargo on food imports, completely cutting off outside sources of food and causing massive food shortages. These food shortages caused an increase in food prices to an unattainable amount. People could not buy food anymore, as a basic food basket could cost up to 16 times the amount of minimum wage.

A popular food item bought in Venezuela is cornmeal. Used to make an arepa, the previous cost of a two-pound bag of cornmeal was 190 bolivars. Now, the cost is 975 bolivars per two-pound bag. This astronomical increase in price hinders the ability to purchase the essential ingredient to make a wholesome meal.

Food shortages directly affect child malnutrition in Venezuela. In just four short years, child malnutrition has gone from three percent to as high as 13 percent in some parts of Venezuela. Families are scavenging the streets to find any morsel of something edible, or standing in line all day only to receive two to three morsels of food to feed their entire family. Today, eight in 10 families eat less than before, and six in 10 families go without food on a regular basis.

Business Insider conducted an interview with Venezuelan resident Lilian Tovar. She weighed in on her personal experience with hunger, stating “If we eat breakfast, we don’t eat lunch, if we eat lunch, we don’t eat dinner, and if we eat dinner, we don’t eat breakfast.” Compromise has become a mindset of the Venezuelan people, deeply affecting both themselves and their children.

Malnutrition can have a lasting effect on a child’s life. When there is limited access to food, children can become deficient in nutrients needed for proper body development. Some of the 20 essential nutrients needed for a healthy body include calcium, vitamin D, magnesium, vitamin K, boron and manganese. These nutrients are found in many plant-based foods and grains. Unfortunately, these products are not easily found, and if found they are at a price that no family can afford. Therefore, a child who is lacking these essential nutrients has a higher risk of bone growth problems and will likely never reach their full growth potential. Inadequate nutrition can also lead to a weak immune system, allowing the body to become more susceptible to diseases and infections later in life. In the worst cases of child malnutrition, normally involving gastrointestinal infection, death is imminent.

Caritas, a crisis-centered organization whose work is now heavily dedicated to Venezuela’s malnutrition crisis, states that “The response to the food crisis must be a social and economic priority, taking the politics out of protecting the most vulnerable people and facilitating the relief work of all those who, officially or unofficially, have direct contact with those most in need throughout the country.” Caritas’ thorough research studies across the four Venezuelan states of Distrito Capital, Vargas, Miranda and Zuliahave have led to their decision to put their full foot forward in rehabilitating the country.

Caritas’ main priority is children under five. They supply malnourished children with food supplements that include protein and iron. Children are brought into Caritas’ makeshift facilities for regular nutrition check-ups in order to provide them with nutritional and medical attention.

Caritas is sending out a desperate plea for the sake of child malnutrition in Venezuela. Their efforts cannot be accomplished alone. Families are suffering and every day more children are being diagnosed with malnutrition. This is now a worldwide cry for help, a call to action and a need for involvement. To eradicate child malnutrition in Venezuela, this call must be answered. Children are the future and with the help of the people, the future is what these children will see.

– Brianna Summ

Photo: Flickr

Hunger Within Poland
One of the main challenges Poland faces today is malnutrition. Hunger in Poland is an issue every third child between the age of 7 and 15 suffers from, according to research done by Poland Human Resources.

In Warsaw, over 23,000 children suffer from malnutrition.

When diet fails to supply the body with the essential nutrients it requires, malnutrition results. This lack of nutrition exists predominantly in developing nations, but malnutrition is also an issue in developed nations. Protein-energy malnutrition, for instance, generally occurs in underweight children. In Poland, this type of malnutrition is seen in 1 percent of men, more than 3 percent of women and in 13 percent of children.

Poverty is the main cause of malnutrition and hunger in Poland. Nearly 7 percent of the Polish population lives below the poverty line. As a result, many of the poor have unhealthy diets, causing deficiencies in vitamin D, folate, vitamin C, calcium and iodine. Infants, teenaged girls and women are particularly vulnerable. Iron deficiency is also a problem in Poland, seen in about one-quarter of children and pregnant women.

The Polish Central Statistical Office recently released a report which reveals deteriorating living conditions for the working class. The report shows that more than half a million children suffer from hunger in Poland, as well as severe malnutrition. Other highlights from the report:

  • In 2009, 2.2 million Polish people lived in conditions of extreme poverty.
  • Over 170,000 Polish children suffer from malnutrition, which has slowed their growth and development.
  • More than 260,000 children start their days without breakfast. Additionally, more than 70,000 children only eat what they receive at school because they lack food at home.
  • One in five Polish children is malnourished.

These statistics are particularly relevant in small villages, where there are high rates of unemployment and social helplessness. Most of the children suffering from hunger and malnutrition have families that are at the edge of poverty.

The Polish government has focused on improving economic conditions for its people in recent years. It must do more to eliminate hunger and malnutrition for its children.

Yana Emets

Photo: Flickr

Hunger in Zimbabwe

Thousands of children are facing starvation and hunger in Zimbabwe due to the worst drought in two decades. According to the World Food Programme, nearly 4 million Zimbabweans are struggling to meet their basic food needs.

Zimbabwe is considered a food-deficit country, ranked 156 out of 187 on the Global Hunger Index. Although food insecurity affects people of all ages, it is even more detrimental to children.

Studies show that proper nutrition is critical to children’s physical and emotional development. Children struggling with hunger are more likely to repeat a grade in primary school, experience impairments in language and motor skills, or have social and behavioural problems.

In Zimbabwe, only 17.3 percent of children between the ages of 2 and 6 receive the recommended minimum diet for adequate nutrition. A child suffering from malnutrition is more likely to contract diseases, such as HIV, or suffer from stunting. Currently, one in every three Zimbabwean children suffers from chronic malnutrition or stunting. Stunting alone contributes to more than 12,000 deaths per year.

Hunger in Zimbabwe has become a major issue, particularly for low-income families and their children. Struggling families are often pressured to accept a dowry for their young daughters. This provides food for the rest of the family, as well as a potentially more food secure situation for their daughter.

Approximately one out of every three girls in Zimbabwe are married before their 18th birthday. Girls living in the poorest 20 percent of households were more than four times as likely to marry before the age of 18 than those living in the wealthiest 20 percent of households.

Both poverty and hunger in Zimbabwe have resulted in an unsafe environment for children.

In order to combat hunger in Zimbabwe, the World Food Programme has implemented the Protracted Relief and Recovery Operation (PRRO). The three primary focus areas of the operation are disaster response, food assistance and nutrition.

The disaster response and risk reduction program are designed to support food insecure households affected by severe drought during the growing season.

Food Assistance for Assets provides cash and in-kind transfers, along with activities that promote self-reliance. It empowers vulnerable communities to move away from a dependence on food assistance.

The health and nutrition promotion is responsible for the Moderately Acutely Malnourished treatment, which assists pregnant and nursing women and children under the age of five. A stunting prevention program was also established in the same district.

With the help of the World Food Programme and other international organizations, hunger in Zimbabwe is decreasing and children are able to live healthier and happier lives.

Kristyn Rohrer

Photo: Flickr

Surplus_Peanuts
The U.S. Department of Agriculture plans to ship 500 metric tons of surplus peanuts to Haiti to feed nearly 140,000 malnourished children before the fall school semester begins.

Its March 31st announcement has met criticism from Haitian peanut farmers, manufacturers, concerned citizens, and a variety of both Haitian and foreign NGOs.

Many have called the action “crop” or “peanut dumping” that will negatively impact the Haitian economy and its people, pointing to the example of the impact of subsidized rice on the Haitian market years ago. Others point to the need to feed thousands of malnourished children.

As the USDA describes, the action is a part of the “Stocks for food” federal program that sends surplus goods to feeding programs and food banks both in the United States and abroad. The specific Haitian project that targets primary schools struggling against poverty, malnutrition and disease receives its funding from the McGovern-Dole International Food for Education and Child Nutrition Program.

However, many believe that sending cheap stock like peanuts to Haiti could negatively impact the country’s ability to sustain its own food production and undermine the local economy.

Partners in Health released a statement urging the USDA to reverse its decision. A letter to the USDA from the Institute of Justice and Democracy in Haiti points out that peanuts are fundamental to the country’s economy as 150,000 local farmers produce 70,000 metric tons, much like rice was a staple of Haitian market in the mid-1990s.

Floods of foreign, mostly U.S.-produced rice drove the price of Haitian rice down, and many farmers were left without income and forced to leave to find work elsewhere.

The Haitian economy and food security depend strongly on peanuts, especially in their role in the production of a spicy peanut butter called Mamba, which provides income for a large number of Haitian women.

Bill Clinton has been repeatedly quoted acknowledging the export of rice to Haiti as a mistake and the “lost capacity” it caused. While it benefitted U.S. farmers, he said, it hurt Haitian ones.

Alexis Taylor, deputy undersecretary for farm and foreign agricultural services at the USDA, has defended the shipment of surplus peanuts as a source of much-needed relief for a poverty-stricken country in which one-third of all children’s deaths are caused by malnutrition.

The peanuts will be a supplement to Haitian school children’s morning snack as part of the U.N. World Food Program.

In contrast to the USDA’s action, the U.S. has funded other programs such as the World Food Programme that support locally sourced food production and procurement in Haiti.

These efforts to encourage Haiti’s self-sustainability and independence from foreign aid could be compromised by the USDA’s pending peanut program. Critics say it would be better to continue efforts to help Haitian peanut farmers produce better, bigger crops as programs like the Feed the Future Initiative, the Clinton Foundation, and Partners in Health aim to do.

However, the White House petition against the donation failed to receive enough signatures and closed.

USDA press secretary responded to NPR’s article stating that the USDA worked with the WFP to ensure the donation of surplus peanuts would have no negative impact on Haiti’s domestic peanut market by limiting the peanuts’ consumption to only be at school and closely monitoring the impact.

Esmie Tseng

Photo: U.N. Multimedia

stuntingThe first of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals is to end global poverty. The second is to end world hunger. Fighting the undernourishment of mothers and children is a huge component to ending world hunger.

According to the U.N., one in nine people or 795 million people are undernourished. Poor nutrition causes 45 percent of deaths in children under five.

One of the key indicators of child malnutrition is stunting, a condition in which children are much shorter for their age than they should be.

The following are five important facts about stunting:

1. One in four of the world’s children suffer stunted growth.

According to the U.N. World Food Programme, in developing countries the proportion can rise to as high as one in three. The World Health Organization indicates that stunting affects approximately 162 million children globally. The World Health Assembly, the decision making body of the WHO, drafted the resolution to reduce stunting in children under the age of five by 40 percent.

2. Stunting is caused by poor maternal health and nutrition.

The first 1,000 days from a mother’s pregnancy to a child’s second birthday are vitally important to a child’s overall health and development. It is during this period that good nutrition sets up a child for a healthy life.

Stunting in 20 percent of children occurs in the womb from women that are malnourished themselves. The WHO lists several maternal contributors to stunting that include short stature, short birth spacing, and adolescent pregnancy, breastfeeding complications, and severe infectious diseases.

3. Stunting has lasting effects for the child.

1000 Days is an organization that brings attention to the importance of nutrition in early child development. They note that the effects of stunting last a lifetime. Some include impaired brain development, lower IQ, weakened immune system and greater risk of serious diseases like diabetes and cancer later in life. The problem becomes a vicious cycle in which girls that suffer from malnourishment grow up to be mothers that give birth to malnourished babies.

4. Stunting is a huge strain on economic growth and prosperity.

Good nutrition is a staple of any good economy. The World Bank finds that the investment in nutrition improving programs far outweigh their costs. Ignoring the nutritional development of a country’s human capital will lead to direct losses in productivity, from poor physical status and indirect losses, poor cognitive development and losses in schooling. In fact, economists find that stunting can result in a three percent drop in overall GDP.

Research shows a strong relationship between the height of a labor force and productivity. A 2005 paper in the Asia Pacific Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that reduced adult height for childhood stunting is associated with a 1.4 percent loss in productivity for each one percent loss in adult height.

5. Stunting is irreversible but also preventable.

Once stunting occurs, it cannot be reversed. However, if adequate conditions exist for mothers during pregnancy to access proper nutrition, stunting can be prevented. Significant progress in reducing the number of stunted children has already been seen.

Progress has been seen in many countries like Brazil, Bolivia, Peru, and India. These countries have launched specific programs to tackle the effects of malnutrition such as the Rajmata Jijau Mother–Child Health and Nutrition Mission in India and CRECER – the National Strategy against Child Malnutrition in Peru.

Michael A. Clark

Sources: 1000 Days, NHRI, U.N., UNICEF, World Bank, World Food Programme, World Health Organization
Photo: Flickr

what_causes_Stunting
What causes stunting? The World Health Organization (WHO) calls growth stunting one of the most significant impediments to human development.

Stunting is described as, low height for age or a height more than two standard deviations below the WHO Child Growth Standards median.

It is estimated 162 million children under the age of five are stunted worldwide.

According to The Future of Children, stunting is an indication of malnutrition or nutrition related disorders. Contributing factors include poor maternal health and nutrition before, during and after pregnancy, as well as inadequate infant feeding practices especially during the first 1,000 days of a child’s life and infection.

In a global study, UNICEF explains that nearly half of all deaths of children under the age of five are attributable to chronic malnutrition. In one year, that’s a loss of nearly three million lives.

Malnutrition doesn’t only lead to decreased stature. Malnutrition increases the risk of dying from common infections, the frequency and severity of such infections and contributes to delayed recovery. According to UNICEF, the relationship between malnutrition and infection can create a potentially lethal cycle of worsening illness and deteriorating nutritional status.

The effects of stunting are lasting and generally irreversible. Children over the age of two who are stunted are unlikely to be able to regain their lost growth potential. In addition, children who experience stunting have an increased risk for cognitive and learning delays.

The effects of malnutrition on a population have broader impacts. Malnutrition perpetuates poverty and slows economic growth. Reports from the World Bank show that as much as 11 percent of gross national product in Africa and Asia is lost annually to the impact of malnutrition.

A study looking at the long-term effects of stunting in Guatemala showed adults who were stunted as children received less schooling, scored lower on tests, had lower household per capita expenditure and a greater likelihood of living in poverty. For women, stunting in early life was associated with a lower age at first birth and a higher number of pregnancies and children.

The World Bank estimates a 1 percent loss in adult height due to childhood stunting is associated with a 1.4% loss in economic productivity. Further estimates suggest stunted children earn 20 percent less as adults compared to non-stunted individuals.

In 2012, the World Health Assembly endorsed a plan to improve maternal, infant and young child nutrition by 2025. Their first target: a 40 percent reduction in the number of children under the age of five who are stunted.

Overall, progress has been made. UNICEF reported between 1990 and 2014 the number of stunted children under five worldwide declined from 255 million to 159 million. Today, that is just under one in four children under the age of five who have stunted growth.

At the same time, numbers of stunting have increased in West and Central Africa from 19.9 million to 28.0 million. As of 2014, just over half of all stunted children live in Asia and over one-third reside in Africa.

Kara Buckley

Sources: World Bank, UNICEF, The Future of Children, World Health Organization 1, World Health Organization 2
Photo: Google Images

fight_global_povertyAfter the ISIS attacks on Paris, #PrayForParis appeared in thousands of tweets across the globe. People changed their profile pictures to match France’s flag and posted messages of support and love. Videos of victims displaying courage and forgiveness have been shared over and over again.

Why did so much goodwill spread so quickly? The answer lies with science.

Dr. Jeremy Dean, author and founder of PsyBlog, reported a study in which scientists analyzed the content and reactions of 3,800 Twitter users. They tracked the social responses to the users’ tweets and concluded that positive tweets are more “contagious” than negative ones. When people see or read something that makes them feel good, they want to share it with others and spread the joy.

Why not use positive social media to fight global poverty? Twitter is an especially powerful tool because a quick search on global poverty will generate thousands of tweets on the latest news. Trending hashtags link information across the globe.

When it comes to global poverty, it’s much more common to see and hear horrific stories of disease, malnutrition, war and despair. Negativity is no friend to progress. Most, if not all, people who see negative content on social media will pause, allow themselves a moment of pity, and then continue scrolling.fight_global_poverty

No one wanders onto the internet in the hope of becoming depressed about the state of the world. An overdose of negativity will lead people to believe that nothing can be done to remedy the problem. Furthermore, according to Dean, negative content compelled 20 percent more people to produce negative tweets.

Instead of tweeting about the 805 million malnourished people in the world, mention that world hunger has been cut in half in the last 10 years. Discuss the Sustainable Development Goal to end extreme poverty by 2030.

Tweeting positive content about global poverty shows people that solutions exist. People want to help fight global poverty, and once they know how, both news and efforts will spread quickly.

The U.N. developed the 2015 #YouthNow campaign to raise awareness of challenges and development opportunities for youth. Many struggling young people have found employment after investigating the campaign on Twitter. Others used the hashtag to learn more about global issues. The National Foundation for Educational Research reported a rise in political involvement among young people brought on by social media usage.

As of 2015, 320 million people use Twitter. Of that number, 34 percent log onto their account more than once a day. Imagine if all those people were utilizing Twitter to promote poverty reduction bills or solicit donations to nonprofit organizations? A lot can be accomplished with only 140 characters.

Sarah Prellwitz

Sources: Elite Daily, DMR, Spring, UN
Photo: Flickr. Pixabay