The problem

The problem

There are almost one billion hungry people in the world. Nearly all of them are in developing countries and women and children are among the worst affected. Globally, almost 200 million children suffer from chronic malnutrition and one in three children in the developing world has stunted growth as a result. This is the problem.

One billion hungry people

Despite reductions in global poverty, hundreds of millions of people are still hungry and suffer from poor nutrition. World hunger and malnutrition have surged over the last few years due to population growth, increased urbanisation, economic turmoil, climate change and high food prices. The challenge is not producing enough food for the world, but ensuring everybody has access to it.

What is malnutrition?

Malnutrition is most often the result of inadequate nutrition and illness. It can take several forms, from a state of stunting (short stature), wasting (thinness), nutritional oedema (fluid retention) and/or deficiencies of essential vitamins and minerals.

Effects of malnutrition

Malnutrition increases the impact of disease in developing countries. It causes restricted brain development because vital neurons and synapses do not form correctly. This means that normal brain development doesn’t happen, which can severely affect a child’s memory and learning ability. The long-term effects of malnutrition go beyond health. Malnutrition can lead to poor performance in school and we know from experience that education is the route out of poverty.

Silent tsunami of hunger

The last five years have seen huge changes in food commodity markets. A combination of factors led to the food price crisis of 2008, including rising energy prices, demand for biofuels, financial market shocks and natural disasters. This crisis was exacerbated by the world recession and had alarming effects in east Africa and west Africa more recently.

A vicious cycle

Poor families in developing countries spend nearly all of their income on food. Even the slightest increase in the price of basic foods can have devastating consequences for them. They are forced to make tough choices with the little income they have, such as eating fewer and less nutritious meals. They are forced to sell off assets like land, tools and livestock, which they need to make a basic living. They have to cut back on healthcare and education too.

The importance of nutritious food

Research shows that if a child does not have adequate nutrition before its second birthday, the damage is irreversible and the effect lasts a lifetime. Brains do not fully develop and bodies are stunted. Stunted growth is irreversible after two years of age. This can be catastrophic to a person’s life-long health.

What you can do

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In depth

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