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Six Facts about Hunger in TanzaniaHunger is a worldwide issue that claims the lives of 25,000 people every single day. Lack of access to food, inflation of food cost and food security are just a few things that continue to make hunger a global issue. In Tanzania, there are 14 million citizens considered poor, and 26.4% living in poverty. In 2014, there were approximately 5 million people who were food insecure and that number is expected to almost triple by 2024. With this many people living in poverty, going hungry is sometimes the only option. To better understand this crisis, here are six facts about hunger in Tanzania:

6 Facts About Hunger in Tanzania

  1. The lack of access to food is the biggest issue of hunger in Tanzania. In 2015, it was reported that more than 40% of citizens experience a shortage of food. These shortages happen for several reasons including drought, insufficient farming tools and poor soil. In Tanzania, 80% of their population lives in more rural areas. These areas are impacted the most because they rely so much on rain to fuel agriculture.
  2. Tanzania has what it calls a hunger season. This consists of the months from June to October where rainfall is essentially non-existent. Dr. Borda is a woman who lived in Tanzania for nearly 30 years. She says, “When the rains are late or excessive, the harvest fails . . . People here can really suffer from hunger at any time of the year — but especially in July, August and September.” During this dry spell, families often run out of food entirely. One-third of children under the age of five die because of malnutrition, a common result of this hunger season.
  3. In November of 2019, the price of food in Tanzania had inflated 6.7% from just 2% in 2018. Dr. Phillip Mpango, a Minister of Finance and Planning, says the increase is in connection with “transport challenges, marketing infrastructure, warehousing and the supply chain of food products in certain areas.” He also states that neighboring countries who are experiencing food shortages too have become the main destination for Tanzanian exports. Therefore, the cost of food becomes inflated.
  4. Stunting, caused by extreme hunger, is an outcome many children battle. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), stunting is defined as “the impaired growth and development that children experience from poor nutrition, repeated infection, and inadequate psychosocial stimulation.” In Tanzania, stunting affects 34% of children today. Luckily, Tanzania has begun taking steps to address child hunger. These have included collecting data from inside the home, making nutritional information widely available and educating health officials on how to better teach patients and their families.
  5. Along with stunting, malnourishment is another danger for children. Children who are malnourished not only face the physical consequences but also mental consequences. Studies show that malnourishment can weaken a child’s capacity to learn, increase instances of anxiety, lowers their IQ’s and increases troubles socializing for children.
  6. Food security is heavily correlated with sufficient food nutrition and consumption in Tanzania. Unfortunately, food security is low. According to the United Nations World Food Program, a mere 15% of families living in rural areas are food insecure, and another 15% are at great risk of becoming food insecure. Some reasons for the high food insecurity rate can be linked to poor economic growth, lack of education and minimal health care.

Resolutions

Despite these challenges faced by Tanzania, measures have been put in place to help mitigate some of these problems. One such solution is Plumpy’Nut which was invented by a French doctor for the treatment of malnourishment in babies and young children. This product is a peanut butter paste which includes other ingredients such as dried milk, oil, sugar as well as minerals and vitamins necessary for growth. Plumpy’Nut is easily accessible to families living in poverty as it does not require water or heat to cook it.

One organization that is doing its part to reduce hunger in Tanzania is Action Against Hunger. This NGO is a part of a 2016-2021 plan, called National Multisectoral Nutrition Action Plan (NMNAP) that aims to reduce malnourishment. They have partnered with the local governments and have been able to train healthcare workers and providers. They also providing the technical support necessary to screen and treat children suffering from malnourishment.

Although Tanzania is not out of the woods yet, they are finally receiving much needed aid at fighting hunger and saving lives.

– Stacey Krzych
Photo: Flickr

Ghana's EconomyA 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

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

childhood stunting
Childhood stunting effects a massive percentage of the world’s youth. UNICEF estimates that some 39% of children in the developing world are stunted. 40% of children in sub-Saharan Africa are stunted and in East and South Asia, estimates climb as high as 50% of children. The numbers tally in at 209 million stunted children in the developing world.

Childhood stunting is a condition that is defined as height for age below the fifth percentile on a reference growth curve. If, within a given population, substantially more than 5% of an identified child population have heights that are lower than the curve, then it is likely that said population would have a higher-than-expected prevalence of stunting. It measures the nutritional status of children. It is an important indicator of the prevalence of malnutrition or other nutrition-related disorders among an identified population in a given region or area.

Aside from inadequate nutrition, there are several other causes of childhood stunting. These include: chronic or recurrent infections, intestinal parasites, low birth weight, and in rare cases, extreme psychosocial stress without nutritional deficiencies. Several of these factors are influenced by each other. Low birth weight is correlated with nutritional deficiencies, and inadequate nutrition is correlated to chronic or recurrent infections.

One of the serious consequences of stunting is particularly impaired cognitive development.  When a child has inadequate access to food, their body conserves energy by first limiting social activity and cognitive development in the form of apathetic and incurious children. These children may not develop the capacity to adequately learn or play. Then the child’s body will limit the energy available for growth.

Fortunately, studies have found that improvement in diet after age two can restore a child to near-normal mental development. Conversely, malnutrition after age two can be just as damaging as it is before age two. However, it is important to note that once stunting is established, it typically becomes permanent.

The reasons stated above serve as important reminders of why foreign aid and programs aimed at eliminating extreme malnutrition and nutritional deficiencies are so vital. The impact of new legislation focusing on increasing USAID and other foreign aid is substantial. Stunting can be seriously limited through the introduction of increased access to food security in the developing world. Knowledge of the facts surrounding stunting is also an important step in working to combat and eliminate childhood stunting worldwide.

– Caitlin Zusy

Sources: UNICEF, Future of Children

Childhood Stunting Has Long-Term EffectsChildhood stunting occurs when chronic malnutrition stunts a child’s growth, both physically and mentally. Over 180 million children worldwide suffer from this condition. The problem is concentrated in certain countries. In fact, 21 countries account for more than 80 percent of documented stunted growth cases.

Healthy nutrition is most important in the first five years of life.  In six countries (Afghanistan, Burundi, Ethiopia, Madagascar, East Timor, and Yemen), 50 percent or more of children under 5 years old are stunted. This number is terrifying because stunting can lower cognitive capacity for life.  Children who suffer from stunting have a reduced ability to learn.  This poor nutrition can affect future earnings and success.  Any inadequate nutrition within the first two years of life is permanent and irreversible.

Being four to six inches shorter than their peers is the most superficial concern for stunted children.  They are “five times more likely to die from diarrhea due to physiological changes in a stunted body.”  Furthermore, the typical stunted brain has fewer cells and fewer connections between cells, which means impaired functioning.

childhood stunting

Despite these numerous health effects, childhood stunting continues to receive little to no media attention.  Organizations like UNICEF work to combat malnutrition, but people do not realize the effects of this extreme malnutrition.

UNICEF and its partners provide cost-effective solutions, such as vitamin A supplements, iodized salt, and therapeutic foods.  Its famous Plumpy’nut is a peanut-based food that helps malnourished children gain up to two pounds per week.

Childhood stunting is preventable, and it is time for people to understand their effects. Numerous studies and organizations name hunger as the “gravest single threat to the world’s public health.”  The effects of hunger alter a community’s culture, economy, and overall well-being.

Whitney M. Wyszynski

Source: TIME
Photo: Fast Company