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How to end world hunger

Ending world hunger is far less complicated than most people assume. In a world where one in every nine people goes to bed hungry, how do governments and their respective societies ensure people have access to the nutrition they need? Many international organizations are leading the charge to end world hunger, setting manageable goals and creating guidelines to fight against poverty. The World Food Programme’s former executive director, Josette Sheeran outlined a straight-forward approach on how to end world hunger in 10 steps.

 

How to End World Hunger

 

  1. Humanitarian action is the first and most direct solution suggested by Sheeran. Spreading resources around the world has been the most popular form of fighting hunger and it continues to grow. According to the Global Humanitarian Assistance Initiative, international humanitarian assistance reached a record of $24.5 billion in aid in 2014.
  2. Providing school meals is an efficient way of supporting both nutrition and youth education in society. Schools are already a haven for youth in developing countries. Adding school meals ensures students stay in school longer and receive a better education.
  3. A social safety net can defend people from falling back into poverty when disaster endangers their ascent. Farmers and their laborers are especially vulnerable to changes in weather patterns and natural disasters, which can destroy their crop and their wealth in one fell swoop.
  4. Connecting small farmers to markets is an essential method of increasing the income of subsistence farmers in developing countries. CNN reports that there are 600 million small farmers and herders in the world. Initiatives such as fair trade products and companies have brought more income to these small farmers.
  5. Decrease infant mortality rates. The first 1,000 days represent the most important period in an infant’s life. During this critical period, the child must receive the necessary nutrition and care from its mother in order to ensure its survival. Improving the chance that children born in poverty receive this care is essential in fighting high child mortality rates and stunting.
  6. Empowering women would unlock a new pool of human capital in the fight against poverty and world hunger. Making political and economic opportunities available to the female population in a country only improves the social institutions of the nation.
  7. With the support of safety nets, a resilient population can resist the pressures of poverty-inducing crises like economic downturns and military conflicts. Preparation can be implemented at the community or governmental level, or however hunger prevention can be mobilized most efficiently.
  8. Bringing the technological development that has occurred in developed countries to their emerging peers can accelerate the development of entire nations. For instance, the output and efficiency of farmers can be augmented by the use of various agricultural technologies.
  9. The power of the individual in a community should not be underestimated by organizations looking to fight hunger. Mobilizing just a small group of people can yield huge results through technology and communication on the internet.
  10. Finally, there needs to be some sort of local leadership in the fight against world hunger. While organizations like the United Nations and the World Food Programme have taken charge on the international level, more local groups need to lead in individual communities if world hunger is to be truly eradicated.

The United Nations, UNICEF and The World Food Programme are just a few examples of groups that have brought widespread relief to nations around the globe.

Jacob Hess

Photo: Flickr

Twin_births
Multiple births, two or more babies born at the same time, are a relatively small percentage of all the births worldwide. Twins represent only 3.3 percent of births in the United States (CDC) and, depending on the global region looked at, the rate is even lower in the developing world.

But even with such small numbers, twin births can present a large health concern for both mother and unborn children alike. The risks are even more pronounced in the developing world.

Twins have a much higher chance of being born prematurely, and they can be underweight, which often leads to more time in the NICU. Also, twin-twin transfusion, “when identical twins share a placenta and one baby gets too much blood flow, while the other baby doesn’t get enough,” is a possibility. The most startling statistic is that in the developing world, “among stillbirths, the proportion of twins is probably somewhat higher than among live births, as fetal (and neonatal) mortality is higher among twins.”

Complications arise when mothers do not receive adequate prenatal care. Women in the developing world often do not receive enough care when they are pregnant with a single child, let alone the need for additional monitoring and ultrasounds when having a multiple birth.

A study conducted in urban Guinea-Bissau found that “sixty-five percent (245/375) of the mothers who delivered at the hospital were unaware of their twin pregnancy.” Sometimes a mother will not measure larger than average to indicate a twin pregnancy, a second heartbeat is not always discernable, and/or bloodwork is not drawn to measure hCG (pregnancy hormone). Even if any of those previous criteria were met, only an ultrasound can confirm a multiple birth.

The unborn children are not the only ones at risk; mothers also face pregnancy complications at a higher rate when carrying multiple children, like pre-term labor, anemia, gestational diabetes, preeclampsia, hyperemesis gravidarum (severe morning sickness), polyhydramnios (too much amniotic fluid), miscarriage/stillbirth, postpartum depression and postpartum hemorrhage.

While these issues have the possibility to affect all mothers experiencing a multiple birth, the complications can be exacerbated when they live in poverty. Access to a hospital for an emergency may not be possible, especially in regions that are remote. Finances to afford a hospital stay can also be an issue, especially since many multiple births are delivered through c-section.

A 2008 study done in a rural mission tertiary hospital in Nigeria found that of the twin deliveries that happened there, 60 percent of the twins were delivered c-section, 36.4 percent were vaginal deliveries and the remaining 4 percent had vacuum deliveries. C-sections are often performed due to emergencies, premature delivery and fetal malpresentation.

Even though it seems like twin pregnancy is bleak, the opposite can be true. The UN’s fifth Millennium Development Goal is to improve maternal health. While multiple births are not specifically addressed, the positive improvements to help mothers and their unborn babies will also help those pregnant with twins. Multiple births must be monitored as a high-risk pregnancy but not all (or any) complications may occur. But with improved medical care, when those complications do arise they can be addressed and the rate of stillborn twins can decline even further.

Megan Ivy

Sources: NIH 1, CDC, March of Dimes, UN, NIH 2, NIH 3
Photo: Babies Magz

breast_feeding
Children ages 12 to 23 months receive an estimated 30-40% of total energy from breast milk. This milk serves as a source of energy and essential fatty acids for them and the fat content appears critical for utilizing pro-vitamin A carotenoids, which exist predominantly in plant-based diets. Moreover, these nutrients offer necessary protection against diseases and help children recovery from infections.

Breastfed children face a significantly reduced risk of chronic illness. The contribution of breast milk to overall nutritional status protects children from developing noncommunicable diseases as adults. Breast milk also improves cognitive development. This benefit could serve to assist with the second Millennium Development Goal of achieving universal primary education. Education coupled with decline of disease increases productivity in developing countries subsequently offering greater food security and the reduction in poverty.

For young girls, greater learning potential offers financial independence. Mothers, in addition to their daughters, benefit from exclusive breastfeeding as well. Breastfeeding naturally delays fertility and as a result, this increases the period between births in populations without contraception. At this time, developing nations account for 99% of global maternal deaths.

A delay in childbirth protects the lives of many women who marry young and give birth frequently. Those who give birth before the age of fifteen risk dying during childbirth at five times the rate of those in their twenties. The World Health Organization offers a number of guidelines to improve breastfeeding and complimentary feeding practices. The annual loss in GDP to vitamin and mineral deficiencies far exceeds the cost of these interventions. For instance, Peru loses $637 million a year to malnutrition. Yet increasing its micronutrient interventions costs less than $16 million annually. To promote the timeline of exclusive breastfeeding, the organization could implement these low-cost interventions:

  • Advocate for natural breastfeeding, as opposed to the use of water-based substitutes
  • Adopt and enforce maternity leave policies
  • Provide training on infant and young child feeding to health care professionals
  • Implement a cash-conditional program for mothers to breastfeed and regularly visit clinics
  • Develop and support work sit lactation programs

Exclusive breastfeeding within the first six months nourishes infants and acts as a safeguard against the spread of diseases. However, globally, less than 40% of infants benefit from exclusive breastfeeding. Affordable and direct solutions to this issue exist, holding the potential to drive this rate to 100%worldwide.

– Ellery Spahr

 

Photo: She Rights Sources: WHO, World Bank

 

Helping_Babies_Breathe
Asphyxiation at birth is a startlingly pervasive problem–1 million babies die at birth every year because they are unable to breathe. This is most likely a problem in places where deliveries happen without trained or, at the least, experienced birth attendants. Doctors, nurses, and midwives are trained how to respond to various possible situations during child birth, whether it’s the mother that needs help or the child.

Sometimes, especially in areas with meager healthcare and in poor communities where a professional can’t be accessed and the woman is all alone, childbirth becomes a dire situation. With spreading awareness, however, and new charities that focus on training birth attendants, general complications that arise because of childbirth can be addressed and are likely to reduce.

Helping Babies Breathe (HBB) is an organization that spreads awareness and education regarding asphyxiation at birth. Started by the American Academy of Pediatrics, and working with WHO, USAID, and other organizations, HBB specializes in training birth attendants to respond to a situation in which a newborn baby is unable to breathe at birth. HBB hopes to have at least one trained/experienced birth attendant at every birth–ambitious, but possible.

HBB training stresses the importance of the first minute of a child’s life; it is the minute they can breathe on their own, or it is the minute a vent has to assist their breathing. HBB calls this “The Golden Minute ®.” The training program, which has been in implementation in 48 countries all over the world, ranging from Africa and Asia to Central and South America, should bring about the eventual reduction of child mortality. Access to a safe and successful delivery and post-delivery care should be available to every mother and child, and HBB is on the way to achieve that.

– Aalekhya Malladi

Sources: Helping Babies Breathe, Healthy Newborn Network
Photo: Hands Up for Haiti

EMBRACE_Portable_Infant_Warmer
Babies born with a low birth weight or prematurely number 20 million each year. This figure doesn’t seem that alarming until you learn how many of them die each hour: 450. The premature and low birth weight babies who don’t survive are usually born in the developing world where access to medical care is limited. Among the most common problems suffered by these babies is the inability to regulate their own body temperature. As a result, a normal room temperature to other babies feels freezing cold to a premature or low birth weight baby. This inability to stay warm often leads to death. Even if these babies in the developing world survive, they are often plagued with continued health problems.

EMBRACE, a nonprofit based out of San Francisco, is working to combat the problem of temperature regulation for premature and low birth weight babies in the most vulnerable places of the world. They target the issue by providing a low-cost, highly effective infant warmer that resembles a mini sleeping bag. EMBRACE says that preventing hypothermia with an affordable and accessible solution can impact lives around the world. Their incubator solution is an alternative to traditional, expensive incubators, and its life-giving warmth can improve the health of premature babies who often suffer from low IQ, heart disease and diabetes later in life. Low birth weight and premature babies’ bodies have to work harder just to keep warm, which can result in organs not growing properly.

The nonprofit’s incubators also touch on population growth. EMBRACE cites Muhammad Yunus, the 2006 winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, who said that parents feel more confident about using appropriate birth control when their children have a greater survival rate.

The infant warmer designed and offered by EMBRACE is a baby-blue colored, mini sleeping bag that keeps a steady temperature for up to six hours. The product consists of three main parts: the AccuTemp Heater, the WarmPak and the Baby Wrap. The AccuTemp Heater is small case that opens like a laptop and runs off of an AC power source or generator. The WarmPak is the piece that is heated inside the AccuTemp Heater to 98.6 degrees Fahrenheit, which Embrace says is a critical temperature for newborns. Once the WarmPak is fully heated inside the AccuTemp Heater, it is removed from the case and placed inside the BabyWrap, which is the mini sleeping bag. By trapping heat from the WarmPak in the BabyWrap, the infant is enveloped in an appropriate temperature.

EMBRACE says their BabyWrap is designed to reduce heat loss during the transfer from the WarmPak, which keeps the infant warmer. Effective for about six hours at time, the long-term impact is enough to save an infant’s life.

Georganne Hassell

Sources: EMBRACE, CNN, ABC
Photo: Wired

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