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Consequences of Micronutrient Deficiencies
According to the Food Aid Foundation, 1/9 people on earth do not have access to enough food to ensure proper nourishment. Malnutrition is defined by the Oxford Living Dictionary as the “lack of proper nutrition, caused by not having enough to eat, not eating enough of the right things, or being unable to use the food that one does eat.”

Defining Malnutrition

This definition, although correct, hardly captures the severity of its meaning. A clear scientific explanation of malnutrition better illuminates the severity of the pervasive issue that exists primarily amongst those who live in poverty. Micronutrients — which are vitamins and minerals — are non-energy yielding compounds which the body requires to run efficiently. For example, the water-soluble vitamins (all of the B vitamins) are coenzymes which facilitate all of the bodies’ metabolic functions.

In light of their vitality to physiological homeostasis, a deficiency in any one of the micronutrients causes a wide variety of negative side effects. Iodine deficiencies cause goiters, iron deficiency causes anemia and vitamin B12 deficiencies can cause a wide variety of neurological defects, including symptoms of psychological disorders (depression, memory loss, sense perception loss etc.). It is clear that the consequences of micronutrient deficiencies are quite dire.

Consequences of Micronutrient Deficiencies

Given the importance of consuming the adequate amount of micronutrients — and the results of not doing so with even one of them — imagine having a lack of most micronutrients. Most people living in developed countries have adequate food intake, yet they are still deficient in a variety of micronutrients due to poor dietary choices. The consequences of micronutrient deficiencies are much more severe in the case of developing countries, where rates of starvation are higher than those of developed countries.

Considering how easy it is to be deficient in certain micronutrients due to simple nutritional ignorance, the level of micronutrient deficiencies –which in turn cause very negative health consequences — in developing countries where poverty is high and nutritional adequacy is low is much higher than in western countries where the contrary is the case. At the very least, 795 million people in the world experience severe negative symptoms due to lack of food.

For example, 84 percent of children in Kenya and 64 percent in India have a Vitamin A deficiency, whereas in a western country like Poland deficiencies in children are at less than 10 percent. These figures illustrate how countries that have a lower GDP per capita — and thus higher rates of poverty — often experience a higher rate/severity of cases of micronutrient deficiencies.

To cover all the micronutrients would be tedious; however, reviewing the statistics regarding the consequences of being deficient — specifically due to lack of food — proves extremely beneficial. The problem is extremely pervasive as one fourth of children’s growth is stunted globally due to malnutrition, poor nutrition causes 45 percent of child deaths ages 5 & below and malnutrition causes the death of 2.6 million children annually.

The above information may be unsettling, but understanding such disturbing information is the first step to changing such occurrences for the better. With concerted effort, the consequences of micronutrient deficiencies need not be as severe as they currently are.

Current and Future Progress

Progress on micronutrient deficiencies has certainly been made — prevalence and number of children suffering from stunted growth due to malnutrition has been on a slow but steady decline. There are specific examples of this, such as in Uganda, where the rate of stunting due to malnutrition has decreased from 33 percent in 2011 to 29 percent in 2016. In fact, the government of Uganda and its allies (the U.N.) have a  goal to totally eradicate malnutrition by 2030.

U.N. efforts in scaling up nutrition interventions has been very effective in reducing the rate of malnutrition. However, according to the World Bank, efforts to reach the 2030 goal would need an additional $70 billion of funding by 2025. Funding itself is the evident driver of progress. For example, investing in Peru’s malnutrition problem reduced stunting rates by 20 percent over a 20 year period.  

Ways to Help Combat Malnutrition

Many may ask, what can be done to help prevent this crisis from getting more out of hand? First and foremost, more people from all walks of life need to invest in nutrition. It is calculated that each dollar spent on nutrition delivers between $8 and $138 of benefits, according to the Copenhagen Consensus Center.

For more broad ways to help fight against world hunger and its negative consequences, donating to charitable foundations such as the World Food Programme, UNICEF, Feeding America, Feed the Hunger Foundation and others is something anyone can do to support the cause. Something “small” can make a huge difference, so it’s up to every willing individual to help solve this crisis.   

– Daniel Lehewych
Photo: Flickr

Moringa Plant Reduces Food Insecurity in NigerThe United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funds efforts to reduce food insecurity in Niger, a landlocked country located in the Sahel region, an area prone to droughts. Frequent climatic shocks like droughts and floods make agriculture an inconsistent commodity. The vitamin-packed moringa tree could be a method of overcoming the inconsistent agricultural patterns and resulting food insecurity in Niger.

Nutritional Benefits of Moringa

The mystical miracle plant, moringa, is known as “the tree of life.” Officially known as Moringa oleifera, the plant is native to northern India and has been around for hundreds of years. The grassy and earthy taste of the plant is reminiscent of spinach but with a slightly more bitter taste.

The numerous health benefits of moringa prove the plant to be a natural superfood. The plant has many vitamins and minerals, including iron and calcium. Iron assists the body in mitigating anemia, and calcium helps with bone mineralization. Moringa also lowers blood sugar and cholesterol levels, which is essential to heart health. Additionally, the plant has a high protein content. The protein in the plant contains all nine essential amino acids that are usually only found in animal products.

Malnutrition occurs because of the agricultural inconsistencies that lead to food insecurity in Niger. Animal protein is usually considered a necessity in addressing malnutrition, but moringa has the nine essential amino acids in addition to containing 30 percent protein, making the plant a good substitute for animal products. Additionally, the moringa tree grows exceptionally fast in dry, semi-arid environments where other plants cannot typically grow, making it well-suited to the Nigerien climate.

Promoting Moringa to Address Food Insecurity in Niger

The National Cooperative Business Association Cooperative League of the United States of America (NCBA CLUSA) implemented the Moringa Value Chain (Moringa VC) project, which promotes the use of the moringa plant to combat food insecurity in Niger, in addition to Mozambique and Senegal.

The Moringa VC project began in 2009 and was funded by USAID. In 2012, the project was renewed under the title Moringa Intensification Project to Help Respond to and Mitigate the Drought Disaster in Niger, which assisted in strengthening the moringa plant’s role in contributing to economic growth and alleviating food insecurity.

The NCBA CLUSA’s approach to the implementation of the moringa plant included many effective steps. The development included information and awareness of the Moringa VC project, the restoration of current cooperative groups, routine data collection of focus indicators, training in production techniques and feasibility studies. These steps were implemented and carried out by many different actors in the region, including Peace Corps volunteers, agricultural officers and non-governmental organization staff.

In USAID’s Responding Early and Building Resilience in the Sahel, Nancy Lindborg said, “We know we can’t stop droughts from happening, but we can and do commit ourselves to early action when we have early warning signs, with a focus on highly targeted programs that build resilience even as we meet urgent needs.”

Women’s involvement in the growing and production of the plant has been an essential goal of the Moringa VC project. Expanding the production of moringa included women’s participation in the marketing, processing and consumption of the plant in Niger. Amy Coughenour, NCBA CLUSA’s Vice President for International Development, said that “focusing on women as a key element in this process ensures food security for the whole family.”

The NCBA CLUSA’s decentralized, inclusive and collaborative Moringa VC project is an active step in mitigating food insecurity in Niger caused by inconsistent agricultural patterns in the Sahel region.

– Andrea Quade

Photo: Google

How Many People are StarvingMost people have an idea of what global starvation is. Nonprofit marketing campaigns aim to tug at the heartstrings of the developed world. And, as a whole, they have done their job. People know about the existence of world hunger. But what about the details? How many people are starving?

This is where knowledge of global hunger ends for many. Despite seeing it in advertisements, global hunger seems like a distant idea to most. Few people know that undernourishment impacts 795 million people globally. Even though this number has decreased by 167 million over the last ten years, that number is still large.

For certain areas, the problem is worse than others. One out of every five people in the developing world struggles with undernourishment. Looking forward, there is reason to believe that the situation will not become easier to solve. To meet forecasted demand, food production in developing countries must double by 2050.

The need for action is clear. Several countries have undertaken efforts to diminish how many people are starving globally. Yet, given the size of the problem, the solution has proved to be complex.

The U.N.’s 1996 World Food Summit met to develop methods to cut world hunger in half by 2015. The summit included almost 200 countries committed to helping global food security.

Unfortunately, the meeting was not able to cut hunger in half by 2015. The majority of the failure was due to a lack of concrete plans for implementation. Despite falling short of its goal to cut hunger, the summit engaged world leaders on food issues. It offered a forum to brainstorm solutions to global questions about food disparity.

Turning questions about how many people are starving into action to help is key. Indeed, there is a fair amount of momentum pushing forward the solution to food disparity. Total calories per person have risen since the 1960s. Yet, despite rising calories per person, certain issues with food security remain.

What is the solution? To increase global food access, many believe the answer lies in technology. A few of these methods include:

  • A “seawater greenhouse” that is able to use nearby saltwater to grow crops in the desert
  • Precision agriculture that utilizes GPS for fertilization and watering
  • Robot farmworkers to maximize efficiency and profit

Yet, despite being marvels of technology, these solutions are costly. An easier way to lessen food inequality is through the proper education of farmers. In developing nations, teaching avoidance of slash-and-burn agriculture can make a noticeable difference. This farming practice is common in areas where growing is difficult or education is lacking.

Farmers in certain regions cut down and burn the land before planting a crop. In doing this, the ash acts as a fertilizer, producing crops without investment. But despite producing short-term yields for regions, the practice is destructive over time. Lack of biodiversity, increased carbon emissions and massive deforestation can result from slash-and-burn. To combat this, programs to educate farmers on sustainable farming practices are essential.

Solutions to this destructive method exist. The Inga Alley Cropping method of farming is one such example. In this method, farmers plant Inga trees to balance the soil’s nutritional content. The result is a sustainable way to grow in places where slash-and-burn is the norm.

Education is a key part of solving food disparities. And with the numbers showing a decline in undernourishment, there is hope on the horizon. Education programs continue to lessen food insecurity in the developing world. Working with technology, there is great potential for increasing global food access.

These factors, combined with continued government efforts, could be the answer. Working together, a world with dinner on every table might be obtainable. Asking questions is the first step.

– Robert Schacht

Photo: Flickr

Fighting World Hunger Through the Hunger Project

Hunger affects more than 700 million people in the world. About one in nine people on this planet do not have the proper amount of food to sustain a healthy lifestyle. The majority of people suffering from starvation live in developing countries in Africa and parts of Asia.

Hunger also has a significant adverse impact on children. Poor nutrition causes about 45 percent of deaths in children under five. This amounts to approximately 3.1 million children each year. Sixty-six million young children attend school hungry, and 22 million of those children are from Africa. In developing countries, one out of three children are stunted, and at least 100 million of these children are underweight.

Malnutrition and world hunger are significant factors in poverty, but organizations such as the Hunger Project work to combat these factors.

 

What is the Hunger Project?

The Hunger Project was established in 1977, and its primary goal is to help everyone live a fulfilling and healthy life by ending world hunger.

The organization’s focus is world hunger, and it has pinpointed other variables that contribute to achieving its ultimate goal. Simultaneously, it works to enhance human dignity, gender equality, empowerment, interconnectedness, sustainability, social transformation and transformative leadership.

The Hunger Project faces each challenge with three approaches. Firstly, it works to empower women, because they are essential to decreasing world hunger. It then focuses on making dependent communities self-reliant through mobilization. Finally, it works to improve local governments through partnerships.

 

The Hunger Project Improving Ghana and Burkina Faso

Recently, the Hunger Project partnered with the Economic Community of West African States to work on projects in Ghana and Burkina Faso. Together, they will finance these projects to improve leadership in communities. With better guidance, the organizations hope that it will lead to people being able to obtain their basic daily needs.

Another goal of these projects is to teach communities how to create boreholes during harvest. Boreholes are holes that are drilled into a surface to extract vital material. Boreholes are useful for drilling for water, as well as oil and mineral extraction.

Finally, as part of the series of projects, the organizations will work to equip Ghana and Burkina Faso with more modern tools and skills.

 

The Hunger Project’s Maternal Care

Ghana’s maternal healthcare system is in dire need of improvement. As of 2010, 164 out of 100,000 births resulted in death. The Hunger Project is working to make a difference by partnering with the Ghana Health Service to teach women how to become midwives.

Ghana is suffering from a shortage of midwives, which can lead to complications during childbirth, especially when a trained attendant is not present. The organization strives to place trained midwives across 15 districts in Ghana. These midwives will offer 24-hour maternal care, especially in the regions that have a shortage.

Hunger is crippling a significant number of people in the world, but with organizations such as the Hunger Project working to address the causes, improvements are sure to come shortly.

– Cassidy Dyce

Photo: Flickr

malnutrition in South SudanSince 2013, political unrest in South Sudan has created a wave of violence, forcing millions from their homes to seek refuge elsewhere. According to the International Rescue Committee, the violence has left approximately 10,000 dead and displaced more than two million South Sudanese people, or one in three.

Among the displaced, about 65 percent are children under the age of 18. About 19,000 children were recruited into militias, according to a UNICEF press release. The enduring violence has disrupted the economy, education system and healthcare and has caused severe malnutrition in South Sudan.

According to the UNICEF press release, more than one million children, which is more than half of the youth population in South Sudan, suffer from acute malnourishment. With no real progress in sight, malnutrition is expected to worsen in the coming year.

“In early 2018, half of the population will be reliant on emergency food aid. The next lean season beginning in March is likely again to see famine conditions in several locations across the country,” said the Emergency Relief Coordinator for the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) Mark Lowcock to the OCHA security council.

Causes of Malnutrition in South Sudan

Besides flooding, which has displaced more than 100,000 people, the primary suspect causing malnutrition in South Sudan is the ongoing conflict. Destroying villages and separating families, the violence has created devastating consequences for the citizens of the African nation.

The threat of being killed or recruited into militias has forced millions from their homes and away from their farms. Now living in crowded refugee camps, and with a decrease in crop production, thousands of people are almost entirely reliant on humanitarian aid.

Not only does the violence cause millions to seek refuge and halt crop production, it also prevents humanitarian aid from reaching much-needed parts of South Sudan that suffer from food insecurity. According to OCHA, humanitarian aid will not be entirely successful until the conflict ends and allows organizations like UNICEF and the International Rescue Committee access to the malnourished people of South Sudan.

Thus far, 95 aid workers killed in South Sudan, 25 of which were killed in 2017. These unfortunate acts are the ones that hinder NGOs and other organizations’ abilities to send aid.

Aid Contributions

UNICEF has treated more than 600,000 people in South Sudan for malnutrition and aims to give about $183 million in aid during 2018. Furthermore, the World Bank’s South Sudan Emergency Food and Nutrition Security Project plans on giving about $50 million to help supply food and assist farmers in increasing their crop yield. Finally, the International Rescue Committee has helped in South Sudan by establishing clinics focused on addressing health-related issues, including malnutrition.

While these organizations and others are fighting malnutrition in South Sudan, violence has greatly affected their ability to assist. Constant warfare has left villages and farms deteriorated and has strained the already limited amount of food.

Filippo Grandi, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, voiced his concern for the future of South Sudan when he and Lowcock initiated an appeal for an additional $1.5 billion in funding to combat the worsening conditions in South Sudan.

“The conflict is purging South Sudan of the people who should be the greatest resource of a young nation. They should be building the country, not fleeing it,” Grandi said. “For as long as the people of South Sudan await peace, the world must come to their aid.”

– Austin Stoltzfus

Photo: Flickr

How many people are starving around the world?In the U.S., it is not uncommon to hear the all-too-familiar phrase about “the starving children in Africa” who would “love to have that food you are wasting!” Seemingly daily reminders of how many people are starving around the world permeate Western society, whether through billboards, commercials, requests to donate to X or Y charity at the grocery checkout or homeless people begging at stoplights.

Despite all these reminders, the U.S. ranks lower than the average developed country in the Commitment to Development Index. Designed by the Center for Global Development (CDG), the Commitment to Development Index measures developed countries’ contributions to providing necessary aid in seven fields: aid, finance, technology, environment, trade, security and migration. Out of the 27 countries measured, the U.S. ranks twenty-third overall.

In the meantime, approximately 793 million people are starving around the world, according to the U.N. That makes up about 11 percent of the population. Of the 793 million, more than 100 million suffer from severe malnutrition and risk starving to death. Of the 793 million, 780 million, or 98 percent, inhabit developing countries. One million children under the age of five die from malnourishment each year, comprising 45 percent of all child deaths up to age five.

A person living comfortably in a developed country may find it difficult to address issues like global poverty or think about how many people are starving around the world. Though not necessarily intentional, this lack of awareness leads to inaction. When local political figures do not hear anything from the people they represent on certain issues, they focus on addressing other topics about which people seem to care more. As a result, bills regarding hunger do not get passed, people do not volunteer their energy and nothing gets done about global poverty.

Considering how many people are starving around the world today, people in developed countries must take action, even just by calling or emailing their political representatives about addressing global poverty. Though it seems like an insurmountable task, enough mobilization beginning at the individual level can help to eradicate poverty once and for all.

– Francesca Colella

Photo: Flickr

cost to end malnutritionThe United Nations (U.N.) estimates that there are currently 795 million undernourished people in the world. With the help of the global community, it is possible to significantly reduce this number. The necessary steps to addressing food insecurity depend largely on the cost to end malnutrition.

Hunger: Not an Issue of Scarcity

When the U.N. implemented the Sustainable Development Goals in 2015, one of the targets was to end hunger and malnutrition across the globe by 2030. While the target seems impossible to achieve, the reality shows that food production is not the problem. Since 2012, the amount of food produced globally has been enough to feed the world’s population. Furthermore, the growth of food production continues to outpace population growth.

Hunger is not caused by food scarcity but by other complex issues such as poverty and inequality. These problems are all linked and an approach to ending malnutrition must address poverty, inequality, climate change and other related issues across the globe.

The Cost to End Malnutrition

The International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD) has found that the cost to end malnutrition will be an extra $11 billion each year until 2030. This includes an additional $4 billion per year of investments from donor countries, which is a 45 percent increase over current donations. The remaining $7 billion per year will come from the affected countries themselves.

The IISD has created five main categories for which the additional investments will be used for. The categories are as follows:

  1. Social Safety Nets – such as food stamps and other government programs.
  2. Farm Support – including subsidies for seeds, tractors and other costs necessary to produce food.
  3. Rural Development – working to improve infrastructure and market access.
  4. Enabling Policies – passing government policies that will help those suffering from malnutrition.
  5. Nutrition – addressing concerns such as stunting, wasting and anemia.

It will take a combination of all five of these categories to meet the United Nation’s goal of eradicating hunger and malnutrition by 2030. While the estimated cost of $11 billion a year in additional funds is a tall order, it can be accomplished with a coordinated global effort.

Eradicating malnutrition goes hand in hand with ending poverty and creating a more equitable world. There is an opportunity to put an end to the injustices faced by many around the world. However, in order for that to happen, countries around the world must understand the cost to end malnutrition and make this cause a higher priority.

– Aaron Childree

Photo: Flickr