As of today, more than 800 million women, men and children live in hunger. In addition, nearly two billion people are afflicted by so-called “hidden hunger,” which means that they are either chronically undernourished or malnourished in the sense that they lack important nutrients such as for example iron or vitamin A. Lack of nutrients may over time result in irreparable health damage.
Hunger kills around nine million people a year, and about half of all deaths among children under five years are linked to under- or malnourishment. Hunger and malnourishment are considered to be the greatest health threat globally – greater than HIV/AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis together.
The predominant majority of those who experience hunger today live in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Africa south of Sahara is the continent where the greatest share of the population are victims of hunger, while the greatest number of people afflicted live in Asia.
Undernourishment has major consequences
Undernourishment is among the greatest challenges for global development. In Asia and Africa it causes an average of 11 percent annual loss in Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Hunger inhibits the productivity of adult workers and negatively affects a country’s economic growth. It has major consequences for society.
Malnourishment has a large effect on children’s physical and cognitive development. It is the first thousand days, measured from conception, that are most important for a child’s further growth. This is when much of its development takes place. One out of five children in the world is either so underweight that it directly endangers health, or too short for his or her age (nutritional stunting). Both are symptoms of undernourishment. More than 90 percent of the brain develops during a child’s first five years. If the child does not receive enough food in these years, it may be marked for life.
As a result of climate change, which gives unstable weather conditions and crop failures, an increasing number of undernourished are to be expected in the coming years. Agriculture is an important part of the solution to under- and malnourishment.
In order to reduce hunger and malnutrition among small farmers living in poverty, the productivity of agriculture must be increased. Climate-smart agricultural techniques have proven to be efficient at increasing food production among the poorest. But even when solutions exist, small-scale farmers often have poor access to technology and inferior knowledge of cultivation techniques, animal husbandry and nutrition. Training in nutrition and sustainable agriculture lays the groundwork for producing sufficient, varied and nutritious diets for the family throughout the year. A healthy and well-fed child learns more easily, and efficient and profitable agriculture reduces the need for keeping the children on the farm instead of sending them to school.
Food, health and education are intimately connected.
How does the Development Fund work with nutrition?
The Development Fund seeks to improve access to sufficient and healthy food for poor people in the countryside. Nutrition therefore plays a central role in the work we do. Our approach is to make it possible for poor farmers to increase their production by cultivating several different food plants, so opportunities for a healthy and varied diet increase. We educate the people we cooperate with on how to make, store and use food that is particularly nutritious, so valuable nutrients do not get lost on the way from the field to the table. Stable access to water and knowledge of hygiene are other crucial factors that we seek to secure for people as part of our nutritional work. Together with local farmers, cooperatives and schools, we also work to establish school meal systems. We have cooperated with experts on nutrition to compose school menus.
In addition, the Development Fund seeks to influence political frameworks, so farmers’ rights are strengthened and more people gain access to sufficient and healthy food.