ONE’s partner Save the Children released a report, “A Life Free from Hunger,” last Wednesday that sheds light on the “hidden crisis” of malnutrition. The stats are staggering: Every hour, 300 children die because they don’t receive enough healthy food. And because it’s not recorded on death certificates, malnutrition goes unchecked, threatening to jeopardize many more lives.
What makes malnutrition such a dire problem is the far-reaching nature of its effects. It’s not just about hunger; malnutrition impedes crucial physical and mental growth. Not only do malnourished kids remain physically underdeveloped, but they also perform less well academically, if they enroll in school at all. When they enter the workforce, they tend to earn 20 percent less than their well-fed counterparts. That translates into 2 to 3 percent of a country’s income lost to malnutrition — not a small figure in a suffering global economy.
But here’s the good news: The world has enough food for every kid to eat well. We just need to ensure that everyone gets a fair share. The solutions the report proposes are cost-effective and relatively simple to implement. It’s just a matter of reinforcing them. Here are a few key excerpts:
Invest in fortification and other direct interventions: Adding nutrients like vitamins and minerals to food — a process called fortification — is one of the most effective tactics in combating malnutrition. And it’s affordable, too! With just $1 per person per year, the World Bank estimates that more than 4 billion people could benefit from fortified wheat, iron and micronutrient powders.
Close the health worker gap: There are simply too few doctors and nurses to go around. Governments, donors and advocates need to work together to fill this need by recruiting, training and supporting new and existing health workers in the regions that need them most.
Harness the power of agriculture: Small-scale farmers, especially women, can be partners in tackling malnutrition by growing foods specifically designed to improve children’s diets. Home gardening, too, can help families consistently put food on the table.
Catalyze political leadership: We can’t afford for malnutrition to remain a “hidden crisis” any longer. It’s up to politicians to make this a global priority and this year’s G8 and G20 summits give them a chance to start making headway — together.
This report is a first step in exposing the pervasive problem of malnutrition. Now let’s take their recommendations and make the crisis history.