Hunger. It’s complicated. On a basic level, hunger means not having what you need to eat to meet energy needs. But hunger is just one issue in a complicated web of food-related problems faced by those in poverty throughout the world.
Did you know? We work in Zambia, a country in Africa that has among the highest rates of nutrition problems in the world. 40% of kids there suffer from stunting — low growth due to malnutrition over time. Learn more about the Zambia program here.
Hunger and malnutrition. Not the same thing.
Worldwide, malnutrition contributes to almost half of the deaths in kids under 5, claiming the lives of over 3 million children per year.
A child facing poverty may not be hungry, but she may be malnourished and not getting the vitamins and minerals she needs to thrive. Without enough food or the right nutrition, kids face a variety of setbacks that can derail their path out of poverty.
Here are a few malnutrition-related roadblocks:
Children with nutrition issues have weak immune systems, making them more likely to get sick. Malnutrition is the largest single contributor to disease in the world.
Weak brain power
A brain starved of vital nutrients is one that can’t concentrate, setting hungry kids up for failure in school.
It may seem counterintuitive, but obesity is malnourishment, because the term describes all forms of poor nutrition. Even when food is relatively prevalent, it can be nutrient-poor — particularly lower-cost foods. Children can get too much food but too little of the vitamins and minerals they need, leaving them with all of the challenges that come from malnutrition and a whole new slate of health issues specific to obesity.
Terms to know: “Hidden hunger.”
Even when getting an adequate volume of food, children might not be getting enough of the vitamins and minerals they need.
What we do
While Children International’s primary mission isn’t addressing food security to combat hunger, our focus on health means we do intervene when malnutrition is impacting a child in our program.
Here are some of the ways we help:
- Nutritional support: underweight kids get immediate nutritional support to bring their weight up, along with medical checkups to monitor their growth.
- Nutrition workshops and cooking classes are provided for caregivers of children with malnutrition issues.
- Education programs and interactive activities on nutrition and hygiene target kids who are at risk of being underweight and their caregivers.
- Healthy food education and promotion of physical activity in countries that face the double burden of overweight/obesity and undernutrition.
Focusing on Prevention
For young kids, preventing malnutrition from being an issue in the first place can be accomplished for much less cost than treating children who are already malnourished. CI’s programs ultimately address the challenge of hunger by breaking the cycle of poverty.
Here are some examples of how our programs impact the issue:
- Education: If you’re like many people, you find it hard to know what food choices are healthiest for you. Now, imagine living in a world where your choices and resources are dramatically limited. We work to ensure that parents understand the basics of nutrition for their circumstances by providing training on meal preparation using ingredients that are inexpensive and locally available.
- Health: When you support CI, you support the overall health of children. When necessary, sponsored kids receive health and malnutrition screenings.
- Localization: Our programs are tailored to the communities they serve, so different approaches work best in different places, like feeding programs at community schools, gardens at community centers or innovative ways to grow food in some of the crowded urban areas we serve.
- Breaking the cycle: We’re out to develop children into successful, educated adults who no longer experience hunger-related issues.