By Alan Khoo
One in Every Nine People Suffers from Chronic Hunger
According to a recent UN Food and Agriculture Organization estimate (2012-2014), more than 795 million people in the world do not have enough to eat – that is, one in every nine people on this planet of over 7 billion inhabitants is chronically hungry. Although the current figure is more than 100 million lower since the last decade (2002-2004), there are still a significantly large number of people who are afflicted with chronic hunger. (source: www.fao.org )
It is estimated that 98% of world’s most undernourished people live in developing nations. Of the 795 million of the world’s hungry, over 93% of them live in Asia (525.6 million) and Sub-Saharan Africa (214 million). To put those numbers into perspective, 795 million is equivalent to the entire populations of USA, Indonesia and Brazil put together – the 3 most populous nations after China and India.
For decades, the global efforts to reduce hunger in impoverished regions were built upon the premise that reducing food deprivation is the best form of intervention. The idea of sending basic food aid to the affected populace was, for the longest time, the most logical thing to do. However, it is now widely acknowledged that the more realistic way to end hunger is not just to fill an empty stomach with basic food but to fill it with food of proper nutrition.
Basic food may feed the hungry but it does not reduce mortality due to malnutrition and diseases. Impoverished communities need more than basic food aid to pull them out of the vicious cycle of poverty. They need long term solutions that could help them to become self sufficient over the course of future generations, and the opportunities to those solutions lie in nutrition, women and children.
Reducing Malnutrition – Now a Global Priority
Malnutrition occurs when the amount or quality of food does not support proper bodily development or health. Irrespective of the amount of food that is available, malnutrition cannot be solved by providing food aid alone. Malnutrition is the deadly twin of Hunger and when a person has grown up in a state of malnourishment, the effects are usually irreversible. Malnutrition is now becoming the main focal point in the effort towards ending world hunger.
“Malnutrition is the underlying cause of nearly half of all under-5 child deaths, yet for too long the world has under-invested in nutrition. Today we see an opportunity to change that.” said Melinda Gates at the recent European Development Days held in Brussels, Belgium, when she announced that The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation will invest $776 million in nutrition to tackle child mortality and help all women and children survive and thrive. (source: www.gatesfoundation.org )
The opportunities to help future generations successfully pull themselves out of impoverishment and hunger lie in directly helping the foundation of all communities – women and children.
Malnutrition – Hunger’s Deadly Twin
According to the latest World Health Organization report, nearly 5.9 million children under the age of five died in 2015. That works out to a mind-numbing figure of over 16,000 child deaths every day. With more than a third of these deaths attributed to malnutrition, Hunger’s deadly twin has claimed the lives of almost 2.6 million children this year alone. Those who do survive the clutches of death may now face a difficult childhood because of the debilitating effects that malnutrition leaves behind in their fragile bodies. (source: www.who.int )
According to The Hunger Project, many of the infant malnutrition cases could have been solved simply by ensuring exclusive breastfeeding for the first six months of the child’s life. Often, the reason for insufficient breastfeeding is the young mother’s own lack of knowledge on the subject of nutrition. To make matters worse, girls in developing countries traditionally eat last and least – especially in cultures where gender inequality prevail. (source: www.thp.org )
Furthermore, the prevalence of child marriages for young girls will lead them to motherhood at a very early age. A young malnourished mother will give birth to a low-weight baby who, affected by the lack of nourishment from the mother, will grow up with an impaired immune system. Children who are born nutritionally deficient have a higher probability of developing cognitive disabilities and have lower IQ, thereby affecting their performance in school and their job opportunities as adults.
First 1,000 Days – The Crucial Window
Poor nutrition in the first 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and the child’s 2nd birthday can have irreversible consequences on the child. For millions of children, this means that they will forever be stunted – the inability of their bodies and brains to reach their full genetic potential to grow and thrive physically and mentally.
Stunted children are smaller than their non-stunted peers, are more susceptible to sickness and often exhibit lower intelligence. They mostly fall behind in school and as adults are unable to learn the complex skills that could help them earn a higher income. As such, they eventually become economically disadvantaged and are unable to break free from the Cycle of Poverty. (source: www.unicef.org ).
This crucial window of the first 1,000 days of a child’s life provides an opportunity to intervene and break the Cycle of Malnutrition and subsequently, help that child escape the Cycle of Poverty. Aid organizations such as The Hunger Project (www.thp.org ) and 1,000 Days (www.thousanddays.org ) are already targeting malnutrition and focusing on this window of opportunity to help marginalized women and children escape the deadly and destructive traps of malnutrition.
As laid out by 1,000 Days, the solutions to improve nutrition within this crucial window are readily available, affordable and cost effective. They include:
- Ensuring that mothers and children get the necessary vitamins and minerals they need
- Promoting good nutritional habits including breastfeeding and appropriate food for infants and children, and
- Treating malnourished children with special and therapeutic foods. (source: www.thousanddays.org )
Watch the video by UNICEF Executive Director, Anthony Lake, as he describes the importance of nutrition in the first 1,000 days of a child’s life.
Want to Help?
This article is intended to bring awareness of the first thousand-day window of opportunity to help disadvantaged women and children escape the poverty trap that the Cycle of Malnutrition creates. If you are inspired to help, there are a couple of ways you can get involved.
Firstly, if you are already an active philanthropist, or are considering beginning your philanthropic journey, then you may want to consider donating to some of the non-profit organizations or NGO’s that are actively providing food and nutritional aids to impoverished communities and regions around the world. Your monetary donations will help to fund their humanitarian work.
The following organizations are good starting points for you to expand your search for a suitable aid organization that you may have a personal affinity towards. Many of them have links to other partner organizations listed on their websites. You may begin with:
Food Aid International: www.food-aid.org
The Hunger Project: www.thp.org
1,000 Days: www.thousanddays.org
World Food Program: www.wfp.org
Disclaimer: Please note that these organizations are merely suggestions and that we are not advocating for them. It would be prudent on your part to do some due diligence on the legitimacy of the organization you intend to contribute to.
Secondly, if you wish to lessen the financial strain that your philanthropic activities have on your monthly income or salary, then you may want to consider starting your own social enterprise that could provide the financial sustenance to empower your philanthropy. The Genusix Project works with Nourish the Children Initiative – a for-profit program which gives you an opportunity to build a scalable and sustainable distribution business that includes sponsoring bags of nutritionally balanced food for malnourished communities, as one-half of the business activities.
To find out more on how to get started, contact us on our Get Involved page and ask about our unique financial sponsorship program.
Note: Nourish The Children (NTC) is a for-profit social business initiative by Nu Skin Enterprises of Provo, Utah, USA. To date, NTC has through the contributions by distributors, provided more than 450 million meals to feed under-nourished children in critical areas around the world. To learn more about NTC, its activities and results, go here.