The malnutrition problem is devastating and growing. Despite efforts to address food security, childhood malnutrition puts almost half a billion children at risk of permanent damage. At a recent event hosted by Save the Children, I learned about the specifics pertaining to this global crisis and how it is actually solvable.
To highlight key action point, the event discussed a new report from Save the Children entitled "A Life Free of Hunger: Tackling Child Malnutrition," that included information about how chronic malnutrition (or lack of proper nutrients over time), is more widespread than short-term malnutrition from a food crisis.
This leads to a host of problems from diarrhea, pneumonia, malaria and death. Listening to the renowned panel, I felt powerless as they spewed off numbers like "malnutrition leads to two million child deaths a year." Professor Jeffrey Sachs, UN Secretary-General's Special Adviser on the MDGs noted that this problem is not only about supplying food but one that is holistic and nutritional where health aid workers need to be trained to learn about proper nutrition for the long-term. He went on to state that children need a healthy start right from the beginning.
So, how do we do that?
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It is more than just giving a dollar a day or sending letters to children. A call to action called Scaling Up Nutrition was developed in 2010 to address the issue of chronic malnutrition. The United Nations and various agencies, governments, research institutions, private companies and the World Bank are all on-board to address malnutrition. This includes goes beyond an increase in agriculture where Carolyn Miles, President and CEO of Save the Children noted "Right now the world produces enough food to feed everybody, and yet one third of children in developing countries are malnourished." Adding, "We now must call on other powerful nations to make it a global priority."
Save the Children is also calling to extend food security funding as well as a greater focus on nutrition.
All of the panelist noted this malnutrition is a solvable crisis that can happen by educating people in the critical 1,000-day window between conception and age two. This includes encouraging breastfeeding to avoid contaminated water, proper introduction of varied foods for infants, fortification of basic staples and vitamin supplementation. Children and their basic needs for nutrition, but it is up to the world (and not just several countries) to take action.
As stated in the report, if the world fails to act 450 million children will be affected in the next 15 years.
To learn more about Tackling Child Malnutrition, please visit: http://www.savethechildren.org/
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