In a conference held in Ireland, Anthony Lake, the executive director of UNICEF, reminded us why fighting hunger is so important. A recently released UNICEF report stated that more than a quarter of children under the age of five are permanently stunted from malnutrition. Children who are permanently stunted lack the physical and intellectual capacity to achieve their full potential. If the 165 million children been exposed to better nutrition, breastfeeding, and clean water in their first two years of life, they could have reached normal brain and body development.
Lake has urged that fighting hunger is important because children who are permanently stunted will suffer increased vulnerability to illness and early death. In order to combat this, UNICEF believes children need increased access to Vitamin A, iron, and folic acid in the womb, as well as a balanced diet and clean drinking water in the first two years of life. UNICEF argues that the minimum requirements should without question be universally available to every child on the planet.
If a child is permanently stunted from hunger, their brain never properly develops. It is unfixable. While we can fix hunger later, once a child is permanently stunted there is no going back. These children will be at a disadvantage in school. They will not learn at as quick of a pace, nor as much as their peers. This is a clear violation to the child’s human rights. And worst of all, it is something that can be corrected.
Formats such as UNICEF conferences, while not always providing the brightest or happiest news, raise awareness. Learning statistics and facts behind global hunger and poverty has the power to motivate society to get more involved. Technology and international cooperation and funding can help put an end to this problem. Permanent stunting of children serves as a reminder of why fighting hunger is important.