It’s difficult to fathom that 20 million people are on the brink of starvation in Sub-Sharan Africa and the Middle East, but the statistic is true. In fact, the region is facing the largest humanitarian crisis in over seventy years and if no help is provided 1.4 million children are at risk of death. Not only is weather to blame for the lack of crops, … Continue reading Why 20 Million People Are on the Brink of Starvation and How You Can Help
In February the United Nations officially declared a famine in South Sudan. What is most disheartening about this most recent famine in the world’s youngest country is it’s largely man-made. Constant infighting among South Sudanese opposition forces and the government makes growing crops nearly impossible. And, the instability in the country continues to drive up food costs. 100,000 people are directly suffering from famine, and … Continue reading 5 Organizations to Support During South Sudan’s Famine
Nutrition of women before and during pregnancy and when breastfeeding is critical in determining the health and survival of the mother and of her unborn baby.
Undernourished pregnant women have higher reproductive risks. They are more likely to experience obstructed labour, or to die during or after childbirth. Poor nutrition in pregnancy also results in babies growing poorly in the womb and being born underweight and susceptible to diseases. These mothers also invariably produce low quality breast milk.
Maternal malnutrition has inter-generational consequences because it is cyclical. Poor nutrition in pregnancy is linked to undernourishment in-utero which results in low birth weight, pre-maturity, and low nutrient stores in infants. These babies end up stunted and, in turn, give birth to low birth weight babies. Optimal maternal nutrition is therefore vital to break this inter-generational cycle.
In Kenya, women’s nutritional needs during pregnancy has not received much attention. This has exposed a gap in efforts to improve maternal and child health.
Sub-Saharan Africa has the highest level of food insecurity in the world. An estimated 220 million people lack adequate nutrition. The nature of the problem is shifting rapidly, with overweight status and obesity emerging as new forms of food insecurity while malnutrition persists. But continental policy responses do not address this changing reality.
Food insecurity is the outcome of being too poor to grow or buy food. But it’s not just any food. According to the United Nations’ Food and Agriculture Organisation’s definition, people need:
… sufficient, safe, nutritious food to maintain a healthy and active life.
Current policy focuses on alleviating undernutrition through increased production and access to food. It does not focus on the systemic issues that inform the food choices people make. This may result in worsening food insecurity in the region.
The first 1000 days of a child’s life – from the time they are conceived until they turn two – is an important period for the development of both the fetus and the infant. It sets up the foundation for the child’s growth, brain development and general health.
Poor fetal growth during pregnancy results in children being born with a lower birth weight and a greater tendency to be stunted. Stunting is the failure to grow optimally and is first picked up in children who are shorter for their age group when they are two.
Guest Post by Brian Kennell, Tetra Pak president and CEO for the U.S. and Canada
From just-squeezed juices to artisan sandwiches to colorful bunches of fresh-picked vegetables, nutritious dietary offerings have never been so bountiful or convenient for affluent Americans. They can legitimately browse for gourmet-quality dinners inside local supermarkets as well as convenience stores or trendy “small box” neighborhood groceries.
Unfortunately, that is not the case for some 23.5 million largely underserved U.S. residents who live in “food deserts,” areas where grocery stores are absent, and food options frequently range from fast food to corner mini-marts, where chips, soda pop, candy, cakes and snack packs are more likely to line the shelves than fresh fruits, vegetables, poultry and meat; whole-grain bread, pasta and cereal; or high-quality dairy and all-fruit juice drinks. Many food desert residents, without access to foodstuffs that allow them to eat three full, nutritious meals a day, regularly lack food security.
Food Deserts and Health
Unsurprisingly, because residents have access to and consume foods that tend to be high in sugar, fat and salt, food deserts are strongly correlated with higher rates of obesity and other nutrition-influenced chronic diseases, note academic studies such as “Distance to store, food prices, and obesity in urban food deserts” in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine. First Lady Michelle Obama noted this four years ago when she made eradicating food deserts to stem food insecurity one of the goals of her “Let’s Move” Campaign. But the issue has proved just as intractable as it is complex.
In the developed world most people have no idea what stunting is. It is a health problem we do not have to worry about because access to nutritious and fortified foods is largely available in our supermarkets and restaurants and ultimately our kitchens. For us, the stark opposite of stunting for our children is our major dilemma. In developing countries, however, stunting is an everyday part of life for many.
It is a cultural challenge. You will go to communities where food is available, but it is not given to the children. These foods are there, but you will find women are making maize porridge and giving it to children. Food is available in the communities. It is a question of knowledge. Geoffrey Kirenga, CEO of the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania
In Tanzania, forty-four percent of all children are stunted according to numbers released by the World Bank. Feed the Future says the number is slightly lower at 42 percent. This number is “highly unacceptable” says Obey N. Assery, the Director of the Department of Coordination of Government Business. Stunting occurs, of course, when children do not receive adequate nutrition for proper growth. Surprisingly, adequate nutrition for children begins in the womb during the first 1000 days before birth through a child’s second birthday. That means mothers play a pivotal role in ensuring the proper growth of their children even before they are born which makes decreasing the stunting rate in Tanzania more difficult to manage.
I feel overwhelming gratitude for the many mothers in my life – the mother that raised me, the mother that raised my fabulous husband, the mother of my three children created thru egg donation and the Korean and Chinese mothers that gave birth to my daughters and then made the difficult decision to place them for adoption. I have always imagined what their life would have been if, instead of completing reams of paperwork and writing checks for large sums of money, we had worked to provide for their original families so that they would have been able to be raised in their country of origin. That venture is much more difficult and involves a more long-term world view than a short-term individualistic approach. But that is exactly what the founders of Second Mile Haiti are trying to achieve. We were fortunate to spend a few hours touring their expanding facility on our last day in Haiti.
The founders of Second Mile Haiti are Jenn Schenk and Amy Syres, two young women who had a vision to create a sustainable option for families who were previously relinquishing their malnourished children to care centers, where the children were either placed for international adoption or reunified back into their impoverished families after their malnutrition was corrected. It didn’t seem right that the only available way to help these families was to take their kids from them. We really had to ask ourselves if there wasn’t some sort of alternative” says Amy, regarding the experiences that led the co-founders to start Second Mile Haiti.
Inside the child malnutrition unit at Hôpital Albert Schweitzer, the largest regional hospital in Haiti’s Artibonite region, colorful murals have been painted over the beds. They were specifically designed to teach parents, especially mothers, how to keep their newborns and children healthy and well-fed.
In Haiti one in five children suffers from chronic malnutrition and 6.5 percent of Haitian children suffer from acute malnutrition. Chronic malnutrition is described as stunting or shortness. Acute malnutrition is wasting or thinness.
This mural in Hôpital Albert Schweitzer Haiti shows mothers the importance of breastfeeding their newborns as well as the importance of taking their babies to the Centre de Santé (health center).
Haiti has a 53 percent literacy rate making it imperative that health messaging at the hospital is conveyed through art as well as through color-coded words. For example, the hospital’s social services are all written in red so those who cannot read can easily find that department. Additionally, for those who can read all signs are written in French as well as in Creole as language politics in the region are quite heightened.
Mothers instead of fathers are more likely to tend to their children in the malnutrition unit like the mothers I saw when I visited. Some mothers were feeding their children and others were sitting with their children who were too weak to be awake.
Haitian women have a lower literacy rate than men in Haiti making messaging through art critical to driving home nutrition education in this unit.
Last week, I travelled from the capital city of Nairobi, Kenya, to Turkana County which is in the northern part of the country. Turkana is a largely pastoralist community with a population of 855,000 people. The county faces major problems, chief among them recurring droughts which has for years crippled the county’s economic development.
The lack of adequate rainfall continues to be a source of conflict for Turkana and her neighbours –the Pokot community, as well as the neighbouring countries of Uganda, South Sudan and Ethiopia as they fight for the scarce resources of water and grazing pasture. With the main economic activity being livestock farming, cattle raids are a frequent occurrence in Turkana, which is classified as a High Hazard Probability (HHP) of food, conflict and drought.
The State of Food Insecurity in the World report, a collaborative report from Rome-based Food and Agriculture Organization, World Food Program and International Fund for Agricultural Development, was released Tuesday. According to its topline data, there are now 805 million people around the world who are chronically malnourished; that is a steady decline of 100 million people over the last decade. Undernourishment has fallen from 23.4 percent … Continue reading 805 Million People Still Remain Malnourished According to New Report
On Saturday, June 8 Britain along with the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), and the Government of Brazil convened the Nutrition for Growth: Beating Hunger through Business and Science summit. An all-day affair experts and world leaders touted the importance of putting nutrition on the global agenda in the lead-up to the G8 summit which the UK will also host. Without an urgent scaled nutrition effort … Continue reading Nutrition for Growth Summit Results, Outcomes
On Monday GAIN and Future Fortified hosted the #NutritionHangout on Google+ with ONE, USAID, and 1,000 Days. The hangout started with Tom Hart, US Executive Director of ONE presenting over 100,000 signatures of a recent nutrition campaign ONE held with its members to Dr. Raj Shah, USAID Administrator. ONE members signed the petition to put child nutrition on the global agenda and end child malnutrition by … Continue reading Nutrition on the Global Agenda
As a part of the global race to end hunger Michael Kors has partnered with the World Food Programme to help solve the crisis of 870 million people not having enough food to eat each day. Kors designed the 100 Series watch for the newly-launched Watch Hunger Stop campaign. Each sale of the 100 Series watch (retail $295) feeds 100 people through the World Food Programme. … Continue reading Michael Kors Designs Watch to Fight Hunger