Malnutrition in Asia
Over the past 50 years, the international battle against malnutrition has raged on every continent. However, the falling malnutrition in Asia has proven the effectiveness of the global intervention in the conflict; with statistics pointing out a 15% decrease in stunting between 2000 and 2017, experts are optimistic that additional action could lead to even more success.

Although this progress comes for a variety of reasons, experts cite the increased involvement of non-governmental organizations and novel government initiatives. After a plethora of meetings among the countries, including the annual Asia Pacific Nutrition Meet & Expo, plans have formulated among every nation. The dedication of all parties involved is a large part of the success.

The Fight Across Borders

Although one cannot understate the impact of government action on the recent success, international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs for short) have taken the fight to every corner of Asia; the variety of methods introduced provided a multipronged attack against malnutrition poised to continue for the foreseeable future.

These organizations battle malnutrition in Asia in multiple ways; some take the fight directly to local communities, while others act as private research groups providing important data for each country’s policymakers. In their own way, every active NGO assists in the process of lowering the rate of malnutrition, contributing to prior decades of success.

Who Leads the Fight

Although every organization deserves credit for the success, distinguished NGOs producing results in the region include Action Against Hunger (AAH) and the World Public Health Nutrition Association (WPHNA). These two groups differ in their courses of action, but both are instrumental in the falling rates of malnutrition in Asia.

The WPHNA specializes in research on the causes of hunger and malnutrition globally, allowing it to effectively produce the evidence necessary to convince policymakers to take action. Although politicians share an interest in alleviating the struggle of their malnourished citizens, taking action can be expensive, and if the initiative fails, it could cost them their jobs. By providing data and reasonable conclusions regarding appropriate methods of fighting malnutrition, WPHNA convinces policymakers that certain actions are safe and worth considering.

Actions Against Hunger fights hunger directly in communities by identifying the needs for infrastructure and resources that leave communities impoverished. The group partners with local towns to provide funding for widely supported initiatives, taking the fight directly to its source.

These two NGOs only comprise a fraction of the currently active organizations in the Asia-Pacific region. However, they have seen their success exemplified in statistics like the aforementioned decrease in stunting – data on wasting before 2018 is not readily available.

A Persisting Battle

Yet, despite all the progress up to this point, more improvement is necessary. When addressing the 821 million people suffering from malnutrition globally, roughly 520 million live in Asia and the Pacific. Moreover, a massive percentage of these citizens still require assistance. Despite the widespread initiatives and successes, NGOs still insist that more can and must occur to resolve the crisis.

The organizations often cite the opportunities available to end malnutrition; recent innovations in studies on the subject can reveal where intervention is optimal along the line for families receiving too much or too little food, and where governments can step in with funding or where NGOs can intervene and create change. For now, progress marches on slowly, but the opportunity for investment offers expedited change.

– Joe Clark
Photo: Flickr