1,000 days
The fact remains that undernutrition is completely and indisputably preventable.

Yet this condition continues to claim the lives of 2.6 million children each year. This is more than any other disease, making malnutrition the leading cause of death among young children.

In September of 2010, U.S Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, and then-Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs Micheál Martin, took a stand to fight this deadly disease.

The two diplomats, along with a community of global leaders, launched the 1,000 Days Partnership. This movement promotes action and investment in nutrition during the 1,000 days from the start of a woman’s pregnancy until a child’s 2nd birthday.

Why 1,000 days? Leading scientists, economists and health experts all agree that the proper nutrition in the first 1,000 days of pregnancy and the life of an infant “have a profound impact on a child’s ability to grow, learn and rise out of poverty.”

When a woman is undernourished during pregnancy, her baby has a higher risk of dying in infancy and is more likely to face lifelong cognitive and physical deficits and chronic health problems.

Once the child is born, the first two years are critical to their chance at a healthy and productive life. Undernutrition weakens the immune system, and children not receiving nutritious foods are more susceptible to dying from common illnesses such as pneumonia, diarrhea and malaria.

According to The U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID), a nutrient deficiency is not only dangerous to early childhood health, but also to the long-term success of a child. Lower levels of educational attainment, reduced productivity later in life and lower lifetime earnings are all consequences of a lack of early-nutrition.

In a recent release, USAID reports that “undernutition robs the developing world of critical human capital and capacity, and undermines other development investments in health, education and economic growth.”

According to the 1,000 Days movement, the answer to improving nutrition lies in three strategic, affordable, cost-effect solutions: “ensuring that mothers and young children get the necessary vitamins and minerals they need; promoting good nutrition practices, including breastfeeding and appropriate healthy foods for infants; and treating malnourished children with special, therapeutic foods.”

Evidence shows that providing the proper nutrition to a mother and her newborn has extensive benefits. These advantages include significantly reducing the burden of diseases such as tuberculosis, malaria and HIV/AIDS, increasing a country’s GDP by at least 2-3 percent annually, and, most importantly, saving more than 1 million lives each year.

Since it was created in 2010, over 80 international relief and development organizations have partnered with the 1,000 Movement. Along with its efforts to encourage new actors to invest in maternal and child nutrition, 1,000 Days also encourages support for the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) movement. The two organizations work in tandem at a U.S.-based hub formed in June 2011 by InterAction, a coalition of U.S.-based international relief and development organizations and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN) in collaboration with the U.S Department of State.

1,000 Days founder, Hillary Clinton, appropriately asserted, “Improving nutrition for mothers and children is one of the most cost-effective and impactful tools we have for poverty alleviation and sustainable development.”

— Grace Flaherty

Sources: Daily Times NG, 1,000 Days
Photo: Care

Obesity: Not Just a First World Problem
Obesity is not just a first-world problem. The World Health Organization has issued a report highlighting obesity as a global health issue. More than 42 million children under the age of five are considered overweight, with 83% of those children living in developing countries. According to the World Health Organization, “the number of overweight children in Africa has almost doubled in the past 20 years.”

The issue of obesity is paradoxically related to the problem of undernutrition. In many cases, both conditions stem from a lack of funds for purchasing nutritious foods. Undernutrition occurs when a person cannot afford enough food to sustain a healthy weight. Obesity, on the other hand, occurs when a person can only afford poor quality foods, often ones that are calorically dense but lacking in healthy nutrients.

Both obesity and undernutrition have negative consequences for the human body. Undernutrition leads to a weakening of the immune system, resulting in an increase in the frequency and duration of infections contracted by an individual. Obesity leads to more chronic diseases including cardiovascular disease, stroke, diabetes, and cancer.

The new report from the World Health Organization emphasizes the importance of ensuring that a proper diet not only contains an adequate number of calories but is also nutritious. This is especially true for infants and young children. A diet that does not deliver “a sufficient amount of quality food can lead both to poor growth and to excess weight gain.”

The World Health Organization states that “many low and middle-income countries are neglecting overweight and obesity as major health threats.” Hopefully, with the new publicity that the World Health Organization has placed on the issue, these countries will understand the health risks at hand and work to end all forms of malnourishment.

To learn more about the worldwide obesity epidemic, and how obesity is related to a country’s GDP and happiness levels, check out this interactive map from the organization’s Desirable Body.

Jordan Kline

Sources: Deseret News, Kids Health, WHO
Photos: Deseret News

The Institute of Development Studies has released new rankings for the Hunger and Nutrition Commitment Index (HANCI). The index ranks countries by political commitment to tackling hunger in developing countries from most commitment to the least. Guatemala has topped the list, and Guinea-Bissau has finished last.

Guatemala managed to rise to the top by way of, “policies ensuring access to drinking water and improved sanitation, complementary feeding practices and ensuring over nine out of ten pregnant women receive visits from health officials at least once before delivery.”

Guatemala has made budgetary strides to ensure their country can achieve lower chronic malnutrition rates by the year 2016. At present, Guatemala has an alarming rate of child stunting, and the IFPRI has expressed deep concerns over the country’s hunger situation. While the current situation in Guatemala remains less than ideal, progress is being made, and things are improving.

On the other hand, Guinea-Bissau, who also has alarming hunger and malnutrition rates, has shown little political commitment to improve their situation. They have failed to invest in agricultural improvements, and their nutrition policies need a great deal of work.

It is important to note that GNI is not a major determining factor for the hunger and nutrition commitment index. Several wealthier countries, such as India and Nigeria, actually rank lower than countries with lower GNIs, such as Malawi. The important thing is that countries show strong political commitment and use of resources to reduce hunger and malnutrition.

The index compiles a score based on 22 indicators of political commitment to reducing hunger and malnutrition. These indicators include political policies and programs, legal frameworks, and public spending.

Researchers believe the hunger and nutrition commitment index is important because of what it brings to light.  The index shows what governments are doing well, or what they are failing to do. It has the capability to be a catalyst for change and accountability. It could have the ability to mobilize civil society and the international arena to demand more from governments worldwide.

– Caitlin Zusy
Source: Guardian

When it comes to Global Poverty, there are more than a few questions that are consistently asked. How many people are living in poverty? What kind of progress has been made? How much does it cost to eliminate world Hunger? Is global hunger a solvable problem? While these questions seem difficult, their answers are relatively simple. The World Food Programme has complied a list of 10 things one should know about World Hunger in 2013 to help clarify the problem and launch the world into action to eliminate hunger across the globe.

1. Approximately 870 million people in the world do not eat enough to be healthy. That means that one in every eight people on Earth goes to bed hungry each night.

2. The number of people living with chronic hunger has declined by 130 million people over the past 20 years. For developing countries, the prevalence of undernourishment has fallen from 23.2 to 14.9 percent over the period 1990–2010.

3. Most of the progress against hunger was achieved before 2007/08. Since then, global progress in reducing hunger has slowed and leveled off.

4. Hunger is number one on the list of the world’s top 10 health risks. It kills more people every year than AIDS, malaria, and tuberculosis combined.

5. A third of all deaths in children under the age of five in developing countries is linked to under nutrition.

6. The first 1,000 days of a child’s life, from pregnancy through age two, are the critical window in which to tackle under nutrition. A proper diet in this period can protect children from the mental and physical stunting that can result from malnutrition.

7.  It costs just US $0.25 per day to provide a child with all of the vitamins and nutrients he or she needs to grow up healthy.

8.  If women in rural areas had the same access to land, technology, financial services, education and markets as men, the number of hungry people could be reduced by 100-150 million.

9. By 2050, climate change and erratic weather patterns could have pushed another 24 million children into hunger. Almost half of these children would be in sub-Saharan Africa.

10. Hunger is the single biggest solvable problem facing the world today.

-Kira Maixner
Source World Food Programme
Photo The Telegraph

Combating Undernutrition
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