LOUISA, Kentucky — According to a number of recent studies by the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition and other aid organizations, only a small percentage of major funding goes toward creating proper nutritional regimens to fight hunger in developing countries. But in order to effectively fight hunger and malnutrition, aid groups like UNICEF should consider using more funding for resources on nutrition as well as to instill nutritional farming practices.
Nutrition has often taken a back seat to other more pressing areas of humanitarian intervention such as preventing the spread of malaria or providing healthcare for AIDS patients. In 2012, aid funds allocated to nutrition amounted to just 734.5 million USD—a little over half of allotted funding for malaria control (about $1.3 billion).
However, funding for nutritional education and practices has grown over the last few years. Between 2008 and 2011, funding for nutritional practices nearly doubled from $261.7 million to $443.1 million, and has increased even more since then. In that time, child mortality slowed from 3.5 million to 3.1 million globally. However, stunted growth in children continues to be a problem.
Many organizations, such as UNICEF and the Famine Early Warning Systems Network (FEWS NET) are focused on compiling data on nutrition in developing countries.
These organizations have concluded so far that tackling nutrition requires a multi-faceted approach. This is in part due to the fact that many aid groups are not only fighting undernourishment, but also obesity. A common misconception is that impoverished people in third world countries tend to be underweight. In reality, approximately 62 percent of the world’s overweight and obese live in developing nations. This means dietary regimens must be adjustable for those who are malnourished, as well as those eating too many processed, fatty foods.
Another key aspect in providing appropriate nutrition is bringing as much information as possible to poor and uneducated populations.
To be effective, experts agree that nutritional education must be customized. Men may respond to information regarding healthy farming practices (since they tend to be in charge of that work), while women may respond more to information about the health benefits of breast feeding and how to do it properly, for instance.
Brian Thompson, chief nutritionist for the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), as wells as the coordinator for the 2nd International Nutrition Conference, believes that collaboration with the private sector is a must in creating proper nutritional systems in developing nations.
“There a great deal of potential, lessons and guidance, advice and experiences from the large private sector that we would be foolish to miss out on,” he said. “I think that public-private partnership is something that provides a way of harnessing this knowledge, this expertise for the common public good.”
Providing nutritional food for the earth’s impoverished people will only become more difficult as the global population is expected to increase to 9.6 billion by 2050. But with scientific advances in nutrient fortification, lab-made food and utilizing food sources often overlooked (such as protein from insects), most experts are confident that nutritional concerns can be addressed over the next decade.
– Paige Frazier