Fragile But Not Helpless
Rates of acute and chronic malnutrition are estimated to be 50 percent higher in countries marred by conflict than in more stable places, according to a new report by World Vision U.K. entitled “Fragile But Not Helpless.”

Because war-torn and violent countries often allocate all efforts toward the alleviation of conflict, the issue of malnutrition is often sidelined. The progress in these countries is in danger of reversing if nothing is done. While the pursuit of peace in conflict-torn countries is extremely important, the alleviation of life-threatening issues such as malnutrition should not be neglected, according to David Thomson of World Vision UK.

More children worldwide die from malnutrition than from conflict, even in violent countries such as the Democratic Republic of Congo, Pakistan, South Sudan and Afghanistan. Though significant progress has been made in the alleviation of malnutrition, 2.3 million children still die from the condition every year. And yet, war-torn countries divert an average of 60% of their budget to the military and only a fraction of that toward malnutrition.

World Vision UK suggests that “donors simply need to re-prioritize if we’re to ensure the benefits of this progress reach a generation of children in the world’s most fragile states.”

The organization is calling on donor states to encourage conflict-affected states to join their “Scaling Up Nutrition” movement. This movement is a global collective effort involving governments, the United Nations, private donors, civil society, businesses and researchers to improve nutrition.

Their approaches include making nutritious food more accessible, improving access to clean water and improving access to adequate healthcare services. Recently, they have expanded their initiatives to focusing on nutritional development in what they call FCAS, or fragile and conflict-affected states.

With their new report, they aim to encourage G8 leaders to provide funding and technical support to FCAS that have demonstrated a concerted effort to tackle malnutrition. With consistent funding and political attention, Thomson is hopeful that malnutrition can be addressed and alleviated in fragile states.

– Kathryn Cassibry

Sources: World Vision UK, TRUST
Photo: The Guardian

Understanding Hidden Hunger
Sight and Life, a prominent group working to fight micronutrient deficiencies prevalent among the world’s poor, has recently released its Hidden Hunger Index. Hidden hunger is defined as a chronic deficiency of necessary micronutrients. Rather than a lack of food or calories, this type of hunger results from a diet low in specific nutrients. This condition affects approximately 1 in 3 people in the world today and accounts for about 7% of diseases around the world. Although the signs are not visible, hidden hunger has long-term consequences for overall health, productivity, and mental development. The most common deficiencies are in vitamin A, iodine, folate, and B vitamins. Women of reproductive age and young children are most severely affected by this condition.

In addition to its negative and often permanent health effects, hidden hunger has numerous economic consequences. It aggravates global poverty in multiple ways and minimizes countries’ growth in economic productivity. It also increases child and maternal mortality, causes birth defects, diseases, and disabilities. Unfortunately, it also restrains the empowerment of women by adversely affecting their health.

The Hidden Hunger Index concluded that hidden hunger in pre-school age children was alarmingly high in sub-Saharan Africa, India, and Afghanistan. High Hidden Hunger Index was found to correlate with low Human Development Index, a measure based on three basic qualities of human well-being: a long and healthy life, education, and standard of living. While many micronutrient deficiencies were found to occur in groups, iodine deficiencies were often found independently. This is probably due to differing country laws on salt iodization. Iodine deficiency accounts for approximately 18 million children born mentally impaired each year.

Hidden hunger and its related health issues are significant obstacles to achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) laid out by the United Nations. The Hidden Hunger Index shines a light on micronutrient deficiencies and acts as a tool for activism. While there is information concerning hunger issues with root causes in a lack of food and calories, and about single micronutrient deficiencies, information about multiple micronutrient deficiencies is sorely lacking. Sight and Life developed the Hidden Hunger Index in the hopes that it will “serve as a tool to stimulate global efforts towards scaling up nutrition interventions”.

– Katie Fullerton

Sources: Micronutrient Initiative, Hidden Hunger Index
Photo: The Guardian

Rethinking Hunger in Africa
Philanthropists may be tempted to rejoice that recent trends have shown that the total number of people who face chronic hunger has dropped. New surveys, however, caution those working to eradicate global poverty.

The Afrobarometer is an independent, nonpartisan research project that measures the social, political and economic environment in Africa through a series of regularly-repeated surveys. By consistently asking the same, standard set of questions in more than a dozen African countries each year, the Afrobarometer can track trends in public attitudes that can be shared with various public actors in order to create better dialogue between the public and the government.

When asked in a recent Afrobarometer survey how many times in the past year they had gone without food, 16% of survey participants responded either “always” or “many times.” Even as global instances of chronic hunger drop as a whole, Africa remains the exception to the trend. The U.N. suggests that 239 million African citizens, or nearly 23% of the total African population, meet the U.N.’s criteria for being chronically undernourished.

The situation is even more alarming when one considers that chronic hunger mainly affects African children, who may experience stunting (low height), wasting (low weight) or micronutrient deficiency if exposed to chronic hunger conditions between the ages of 2 and 3. Chronic hunger not only puts children at risk for future health complications but can also impair future economic concerns as well. Studies have also shown that undernourished children eventually earn an average of 20% less than their healthy peers.

The current hunger problems in African can be traced back to a reliance on maize. Though maize is highly caloric, it offers mediocre nutritional qualities and thus can exacerbate malnutrition even as it satisfies daily caloric needs. Both Zambians and Malawians report receiving more than 50% of their calories from maize.

Over-reliance on maize is not just stunting the growth of African children, but also the potential of the African economy and agricultural development. By only producing maize, African farmers limit their access to global markets, thus making them too reliant on foreign aid and capital.

Instead of maize, the U.N. and its associated nutritionists suggest a food fortification program that supplies rural grain mills with a range of foods that include added iodine, zinc and vitamin A to provide an extra nutritional boost. Additionally, initiatives like ReSCOPE are using schools and colleges in Africa to teach a technique called permaculture, which uses a version of organic farming to keep nutrients in the soil to promote sustainable, year-round crops that will help local farming cultures flourish like never before.

These initiatives follow the concept of the “teach a man to fish” proverb. By promoting a culture of food self-sufficiency that allows African farmers to create both the quantity and quality of the food needed to meet their local nutritional needs, global aid communities and governments may be giving Africa the long-overdue ability to stand on its own two feet.

– Alexandria Bruschi

Source:,Think Africa Press
Photo: WPHR

Female farmers working small plots of land to grow food may be a solution to ending world hunger according to international aid group CARE.  As leaders prepare talks for the Hunger Summit in London, advocates are reminding leaders to look to female farmers as a solution and answer to food insecurity. Around the world, 60 to 80 percent of food production in developing countries is grown by women. In stark contrast, only about 5 percent of training and resources ever get to these female farmers.

Julia Netwon-Howes, CARE Australia CEO, believes small-scale farmers are key in the fight against world hunger. Families around the world are being fed and sustained by women farming on small plots of land and their ability to increase the size and quality of their crops can lead to huge gains in fighting hunger. Studies show the world produces enough food for everyone, but the poor distribution and scarcity in some regions leads to millions still going hungry each day. To address the 1 in 8 still going to bed hungry, not only does production need to be addressed, but distribution must also be studied.

While action has been taken, small-scale farmers have been left out of the mainstream. With close to half of all agriculture being produced on small-scale farms, they must be taken into consideration as future plans are drawn to fight hunger. Assistance and government help must expand their focus to include both large and small-scale farms. This includes helping female farmers with better farming techniques, diversification of crops, and nutrition education. Farmers must be educated on the value of a variety of vegetables and food beyond the staple crops of sweet potato or maize grown every day. As they are educated and helped, hunger and malnutrition will continue to decline.

– Amanda Kloeppel
Source: ABC Radio Australia

Oxfam Raises World Hunger Awareness at Banquet
University of Central Missouri hosted an Oxfam Hunger Banquet to raise money to fight world poverty and hunger. The event raised $9,250, of which $9,000 was in the form of donated Sodexo swipes (student meal plans) and $250 in cash. Other donations included 150 pounds of food to be sent to developing countries.

The 100 students and other city residents who attended the banquet were educated on how to end global hunger through long-term development plans and emergency relief programs. Oxfam also emphasized the importance of implementing fair trade rules, combating global climate change, and standing up for human rights.

The Hunger Banquet emphasized access to food inequalities in the world by randomly assigning attendees to represent people in the world who were food insecure, consumed just enough calories for a healthy diet, or consumed more than the necessary amount of calories. To mimic real-world statistics, 15% of the people could eat a high amount of calories, 35% could consume the basic amount of calories, and 50% of attendees were food insecure.

Those who were given the lowest status had beans, rice, and a glass of water for dinner. The 15% of high-class people were served their dinner on China plates and crystal glass. The juxtaposition of people eating beans next to people consuming a fancy meal added a new outlook on world hunger for those who were present at the banquet.

Another alarming fact that attendees took home with them is that 16,000 children die every day from hunger. To put this in perspective, the town where the event was held, Warrensburg, has a population of 16,304. The Hunger Banquet was a huge success in terms of raising money and donations for the world’s poor and also because the attendees are now more aware of the struggles millions of people face every day. Many students left the banquet ready to take action against global hunger.

– Mary Penn

Source: digital Burg

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

Conference Focuses on Improving Newborn Health
In the first newborn health conference, international healthcare organizations are pleased with advancements to improve the health of newborns in developing countries. These organizations include the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), the US Agency for International Development and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Although newborn deaths, malnutrition, and stunted development are beginning to decrease, representatives of aid organizations say that more support is needed.

Attendees of the conference are planning to release a “global action plan” in the upcoming year to present a strategy for even further reducing these newborn deaths. With this new call to action, we can hope to see the current statistics for newborn deaths and illnesses continue to decrease.

Unfortunately, newborn deaths are all too common in the developing world. In 2011, approximately 20,000 newborn babies died and, in 2009, there were over 22,600 stillbirths in South Africa. The global statistics are even more shocking. 60.9 million children died in 2011 and, of these, 43 percent of deaths occurred during the first four weeks of life, three million died within a week, and two million babies died the day they were born.

Graca Machel, the wife of Nelson Mandela, spoke urgently on the subject. She pronounced the issue of newborn health to be a top priority for UNICEF. “Too many of our newborn children here in Africa are dying too early. We are not reaching the targets we have set ourselves in the (UN) Millennium Development Goals. The issue of newborn health has long been a hidden challenge,” she said.

All organizations involved remain committed to working together to reduce newborn death rates through research and by working with the agriculture department to address malnutrition, the cause of stunted growth. The groups also plan to implement programs on training midwives and newborn healthcare education. Together, UNICEF, USAID, and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation hope to change the lives of millions of new babies.

– Mary Penn

Source: BDLive

Free Meals for Indian School Children
Imagine what it’s like to have to choose between attending elementary school or harvesting wheat as a means of preventing starvation. Sadly, for many children in India where –according to UNICEF – upwards of 40 % of the population under five is underweight, this choice is one that many of their students have to make on a daily basis. However, thanks to the efforts of The Akshaya Patra Foundation and some assembly line ingenuity, free meals for Indian school children are now a reality for many elementary and middle school students.

The free meals for Indian school children program were incorporated following a 2001 Supreme Court Ruling institutionalizing free meals for all children under the age of 13. The Indian Government – in cooperation with The Akshaya Patra Foundation – has been able to feed 1.4 million children a day, resulting in greater attendance and a heightened ability to focus in class. The Foundation’s Vice Chairman, Chanchalapathi Dasa, remarked that “If a child is hungry in the classroom then he or she will not be able to receive all this education.”

But how does the government-run a program to provide that many free meals for Indian school children in one day? The answer is through an ingenious “gravity flow” kitchen that utilizes the technologies of mass production and efficiency. Basically, the kitchen is divided into 3 floors where food is prepped on the third floor, sent down –via a chute – to the cauldrons for cooking on the second floor, and sent down a final chute to be packaged and shipped to the schools on the first floor. Vice-Chairman Dasa added that the organization knew the scope of the problem that they were trying to address and “realized that in order to see a significant impact we have to do it in scale and that we have to use modern techniques of management and innovation” to make a difference.

Programs such as these serve as a much needed shot in the arm in combating global poverty and chronic undernourishment for much of India’s youth. By providing free meals for Indian schoolchildren, investments made by the government today will result in greater technological innovation through educational achievements in the future.

Brian Turner

Source: CNN

The U.S. Department of State recently hosted a number of government officials in a conference on nutrition and hunger in Guatemala. Attendees included representatives from USAID, the Guatemalan Health Minister, officials of the Government of Guatemala, a panel of nutrition experts, and private sector leaders.

As part of the larger Zero Hunger Pact, started by the President of Guatemala in 2012, Guatemala’s goal is to lower chronic malnutrition in children throughout the country by 10 percent by 2015.

In addition to representatives from the United States and Guatemala, members from the World Bank, the World Food Program, and other high-profile organizations appeared at the event. Participants of the event gathered to discuss and strategize on Guatemala’s implementation of the Zero Hunger Pact, which included planning the necessary next steps for the country to take to reduce malnourishment.

Guatemala has one of the highest rates of child malnutrition in the world as nearly half of all children in the country under five years of age suffer from chronic malnourishment; the issue is particularly bad in the Western highlands of Guatemala. U.S. government officials praised the Guatemalan government’s efforts to tackle child nutrition at the conference and also praised their efforts for sustainable results in fighting hunger.

In addition to the Zero Hunger Pact, Guatemala is also a focus area for the United State’s global hunger and food security initiative called Feed the Future.

Christina Kindlon

Source: State Department

The UN and other aid organizations are working to address food security in the world’s poorest countries. According to the UN Development Program’s (UNDP) African Human Development Report, food security is key to improving the lives of many of the world’s poorest people.

At the heart of eradicating extreme poverty is addressing the widespread hunger and malnutrition that kills hundreds of children every day. Food production is a determining factor in the achievement of other human development goals such as education and health care. Without adequate nutrition, people lack energy to pursue economic activities.

A productive approach to addressing food security is more complex than simply growing more food. The chief economist for the UNDP Regional Bureau for Africa, Pedro Conceicao, argued that economic growth does not necessarily reduce poverty and food insecurity. This suggests that accessibility, empowerment, and purchasing power drive change, and that a strategic, interdisciplinary approach is necessary to address food security. The Report focused on four ways to address food security:

  • Food production: investments in agricultural research, infrastructure, and inputs will increase food production. This will improve food security, especially for agricultural communities.
  • Adequate nutrition: improving food security does not necessarily improve nutrition. Efforts to alleviate malnutrition should be coordinated with developments in sanitation, clean water, and health services.
  • Resilience: building resilience is key to decreasing the need for emergency aid. Systems such as crop insurance and employment guarantees strengthen communities and reduce vulnerability.
  • Empowerment: gender equality, access to good land, technology, and information on good agricultural practices are necessary for achieving food security.

Sustainable progress does not happen overnight. As the Millennium Development Goals demonstrate, long-term coordinated efforts in multiple sectors are needed to improve food security. In order to achieve sustainable rather than short-term food security, development organizations also need to address environmental conservation, natural resource management, and the often opposing influences of big agribusiness and local ecology.

– Kat Henrichs

Source: IRIN News
Photo: Security and Sustainability Forum