“Stunting is a key factor holding back progress on children’s well-being, and Asia faces a significant challenge with millions of children under five stunted,” according to Save the Children’s 2012 Child Development Index (CDI), IRIN reports. The news service examines data from the 2012 State of the World’s Children report (.pdf), noting that nearly 60 percent of children under five in Afghanistan and Timor Leste have moderate to severe stunting, which puts children “at greater risk of illness and death, impaired cognitive development and poor school performance, say health experts.”
Food Security and Nutrition
“Malnutrition is likely to be the most serious health threat linked to climate shifts in the coming decades, as farmers struggle to cope with more unpredictable weather, … epidemiologist Kris Ebi warned during a recent World Health Organization (WHO) briefing on adapting health systems to climate shifts,” AlertNet reports. “Linkages between climate change, extreme weather and health have so far focused mainly on an expected increase in deaths from disasters and heat waves, as well as rising cases of malaria, dengue fever and diarrhea,” the news service writes.
“For all its importance to human well-being, agriculture seems to be one of the lagging economic sectors of the last two decades,” Tyler Cowen, a professor of economics at George Mason University, writes in a New York Times opinion piece. “That means the problem of hunger is flaring up again, as the World Bank and several United Nations agencies have recently warned,” and in Africa, for example, “[t]he expansion of the … middle class and the decline in child mortality rates are both quite real, but the advances have not been balanced — and agriculture lags behind,” he states.
Agence France-Presse reports on how poverty and hunger are forcing families in the rural village of Hawkantaki, Niger, to marry their daughters at increasingly younger ages, writing, “A girl married off is one less mouth to feed, and the dowry money she brings in goes to feed others.” The news agency notes “one out of every three girls in Niger marries before her 15th birthday, a rate of child marriage among the highest in the world, according to a UNICEF survey.” According to AFP, “Most of the marriages should be illegal under Niger’s law, which states that the minimum age of marriage is 15,” but the law “only applies for civil ceremonies officiated by the state. Marriages in villages are sealed inside mosques and fall under what is called ‘traditional law'” (Callimachi, 9/16).
“More than half a million people in northern Mali, occupied by Islamist fighters, need aid to cope with rising food prices, collapsed public services and a lack of health care, the International Committee of the Red Cross said on Thursday,” Reuters reports. “Public services practically no longer function, basic health services are not provided and supplying clean drinking water is difficult. Needs are huge,” Yasmine Praz Dessimoz, head of ICRC operations for North and West Africa, said at a news conference in Geneva, according to the news agency. “The ICRC, which deploys 111 aid workers in Mali, is one of few humanitarian organizations to have access to all of northern Mali, where no United Nations aid agencies deploy any staff,” Reuters notes (Nebehay, 9/13).
The following articles examining food and water security were published on Thursday. The U.N. News Centre writes, “The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) have called on the private sector to invest massively in agriculture, stressing that this is vital to winning the fight against hunger.” The news service adds, “Speaking at a high-level conference in Istanbul focused on promoting private agricultural investment and trade from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, [FAO Director-General Jose Graziano da Silva] said that apart from important investments, financial and in-kind contributions, the private sector can make another important valuable contribution, namely political support to food security” (9/13).
Humanitarian Situation Better, Still Tenuous, In Zimbabwe As E.U. Scales Down Assistance, IRIN Reports
Though the number of people in Zimbabwe in need of food aid has dropped from seven million in 2002-2003 to one million currently, the number could still rise by 600,000 in 2013, IRIN reports in an analysis of the humanitarian and political situation in the country. “Still, two of the country’s biggest donors, the European Union and the U.S., and their implementing partner, the U.N., say Zimbabwe is on its way to recovery and development,” the news service writes, noting “[t]he E.U. has announced that it is scaling down its humanitarian assistance.” IRIN states, “The E.U. has moved from funding only emergency food aid to funding nutrition, health, water and sanitation, and protection programs. [U.N. Financial Tracking Service (FTS)] data show that the health and education sectors are better funded than last year, but agriculture programs are worse off.”
A recently released report (.pdf) commissioned by the U.K. Department for International Development (DfID) examines research projects on agriculture for nutrition and “reveals eight gaps that are currently being neglected, including specific target groups — particularly rural workers and non-rural populations — as well as a lack of methodologies to guide research in the field,” SciDev.Net reports (Piotrowski, 9/13). “With new initiatives announced at the U.K. hunger summit in August, and the new global target to reduce the number of stunted children by 40 percent by 2025 declared by the U.N.’s World Health Assembly, DfID commissioned this new report to identify poorly researched areas in the newly invigorated fight against malnutrition,” according to a DfID press release. “In its conclusion the authors suggest methods for tackling these gaps, laying out several steps which can be taken towards establishing more complete research pathways,” including the establishment of a network of researchers to improve communication, the press release notes (8/29).
Noting the Copenhagen Consensus has stated that “large-scale micronutrient fortification is a proven and cost-effective intervention that can mitigate malnutrition in the form of vitamin and mineral deficiencies and enhance the well-being of millions,” Marc Van Ameringen, executive director of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN), writes in the Huffington Post “Impact” blog, “On September 9, 2012, [GAIN] launched a partnership in Kabul with Afghanistan’s Ministry of Public Health, the Khalifa Bin Zayed Al Nahyan Foundation (KBZF) and the World Food Programme (WFP) to help alleviate the burden of malnutrition in Afghanistan by bringing more nutritious wheat flour, vegetable oil, and ghee to approximately half of the country’s population.”
The annual number of child deaths worldwide has fallen more than 40 percent since 1990, “the result of myriad improvements in nutrition, access to vaccines and antibiotics, cleaner deliveries, better care of infants immediately after birth, and the use of insecticide-treated mosquito nets,” according to “the findings of a report released Wednesday by three United Nations agencies and the World Bank,” the Washington Post reports (Brown, 9/12). “In 1990, there were 12 million deaths of young children, but the latest figures … show that deaths had fallen by nearly half, to 6.9 million, by 2011,” the Guardian writes (Boseley, 9/12). “[T]he number of deaths is down by at least 50 percent in eastern, western and southeastern Asia, as well as in northern Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean,” the report says, VOA News notes (Schlein, 9/12). However, “[i]n some, mainly sub-Saharan countries, the total number of deaths of children younger than five increased,” BBC News writes, adding, “The Democratic Republic of Congo, Chad, Somalia, Mali, Cameroon, and Burkina Faso saw annual deaths of children under five rise by 10,000 or more in 2011 as compared with 1990” (Doyle, 9/13).