Save the Children, an NGO that works towards improving children’s rights, has released a report that clearly presents the effect of the global food crisis. The report A Life Free From Hunger: Tackling Child Malnutrition estimates that one in four children are already stunted because of malnutrition. Malnutrition is the root cause of 2.6 million children deaths annually. “If no concerted action is taken,” warns Justin Forsyth, the charity’s chief executive, “half a billion children will be physically and mentally stunted over the next 15 years”.
The increase of global food prices appears to be the main cause of malnutrition. Where factors such as extreme weather conditions, diverting farmland to grow biofuels, speculative trading of food commodities and the global financial crisis are driving up the price of goods. These factors are what are forcing parents of malnourished children to cut back on food and pull children out of school to work.
Stunting is not necessarily the direct result of having not enough to eat. It occurs because families cannot grow or afford nutritious food such as vegetables, milk or meat. The report found that over 50% of children in poorer countries only eat three food items – staples such as cassava, which has no nutritional value at all, a pulse such as peas, and a vegetable, usually green leaves. This lack of nutritional intake is causing individuals bodies that are starving for required minerals, vitamins, proteins and fat to be compromised because their brains and bodies can not develop properly.
Malnutrition is the underlying cause of a third of all child deaths, the report says, but it does not receives the high-profile campaigning and investment. The issue is that malnutrition is a silent killer because it is not recorded as a cause of death and thereby leads to a lack of action across the developing world. With early intervention, the life-long physical and mental stunting from hunger can be eased, enabling individuals to reach their developmental potential. Just imagine how different the world would be and what the world is missing from losing citizens of the world to this crisis. The reports indicates that there is hope and that this damaging trend could be halted and reversed if public awareness was raised and political will existed.
Save the Children is pressing for international leaders to take action of accelerating efforts to improve children nutritional status. The organization would like to see UK Prime Minister David Cameron host a “world hunger summit” and launch an international campaign to increase aid for malnutrition victims when the world leaders are in London for the Olympic games this spring.
The price tag has been estimated at $10 billion a year and could help protect 90% of the world’s most vulnerable children from hunger. What increased funding would be able to provide is more food supplements, improved hygiene and increased awareness of the benefits of breastfeeding. Funding can provide trained health workers, social protection schemes providing a food safety net, improved global food distribution networks, and stronger, more committed political leadership.
It’s hard to know the best way to respond to something so multi faceted as this. CKi is working at the grassroots level to help improve food security within a community setting in order to work towards decreasing the prevalence of childhood malnutrition.
More in-depth information about the report released from Save the Children please see the following articles: