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

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 The Akshaya Patra Foundation and some assembly line ingenuity, free meals for Indian school children is now a reality for many elementary and middle school students.

The free meals for Indian school children program was 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 school children, 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

Childhood 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 less 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 its 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

Each year, 3 million children die from undernutrition.

There are more than 165 million children under the age of five suffering from stunted growth, a marker for malnutrition.

In the media, malnourished children are often portrayed as being skinny with protruding stomachs. Yet, a protruding stomach is not the only marker for undernutrition. In fact, undernutrition comes in many different shapes and sizes. Stunted height, especially before the age of five, is a marker  “of multiple deprivations regarding food intake, care and play, clean water, good sanitation and health care,” according to The Guardian.

Children that face undernutrition in the first 1,000 days after conception are unable to fully, properly develop. Brain-synapse development and the development of the immune system are especially vulnerable and incorrect development of these major parts of the body can have long-lasting and serious effects on a person. Further, undernutrition leads to the deaths of 1 in 3 children and 1 in 5 mothers in developing countries.

The European Commission has recently launched a new effort that will hope to decrease the number of stunted children by 7 million by addressing malnutrition by the year 2025. This will be done through the provision of funds from donors – and from the EU humanitarian and development budgets – as well as by making this a global movement. Everyone must get involved to combat malnutrition, which is usually the result of impoverished situations that make it hard to access food, healthcare, clean water and sanitation, and education.

– Angela Hooks

Sources: New Europe, The Guardian
Photo: UN

Malnutrition is not necessarily about not having enough to eat, but rather not having the right minerals and vitamins in what you eat. This World Food Program (WFP) video says everything you need to know about malnutrition – in two minutes.

The cycle of malnutrition starts in the womb, malnourished mothers give birth to children with health problems who grow up to be adults with health problems, then raising the next generation, and so on. The goal of the WFP is not just to treat malnutrition, but to also help it from happening in the first place. WFP realizes that it costs half as much to help a child under two, than it does to wait until the child is older and in need of greater assistance.

In raw figures, WFP indicates it would cost $3.6 billion to provide the special foods needed to treat all the moderately malnourished infants and toddlers in the world. Seemingly a large sum of money, but it is less than half of the $10 billion that Europeans spend on ice cream annually. Thus, the amount needed to treat malnourished is attainable.

Relatively, the fight against malnutrition is not that daunting; the world has the ability and the means, “the challenge is to do it.”

– Mary Purcell

Source: Youtube