Saturday, October 17, 2009

There must be a renewed commitment to save lives

I'm attending the Bioneers annual gathering in San Rafael, California this week. As always this is an amazing event -- inspiring, energizing and rejuvenating. If you don't know about the Bioneers, check out their website. You will be rewarded many times over. One of the talks during this morning's plenary was by Michael Pollan, author of "The Omnivore's Dilemma", "In Defense of Food" and "The Botany of Desire". His books are extremely popular and he is a very engaging speaker. Pollan's talk was entitled "In Defense of Food: The Omnivore's Solution". He stressed the need to wean agriculture from its dependency on oil and to create a more sustainable and just agricultural system that calls for millions of new farmers working the land.

Pollan ended by wondering out loud if we could feed the world under such an agricultural scenario. He answered himself by saying he really didn't know. We need to do whatever we can to make sure there's a positive answer to that question. (GW)

World Food Day: more than one billion people suffering from hunger

By Ann M. Veneman
The Huffington Post

October 16, 2009

On this World Food Day more than one billion people are suffering from malnutrition and hunger, an increase of 100 million in just over a year. Consensus, international leadership and urgent action are needed to help end this global travesty.

At the recent G8 summit in Italy leaders committed that food security, nutrition and sustainable agriculture should be prioritized on the global agenda. Lack of access to food in some parts of the world has triggered other threats, including conflict and environmental degradation, undermining the health and wellbeing of children.

In my travels around the world, I have seen the heartache and pain in the eyes of parents who have lost a child and communities devastated because crops are scarce and disaster, conflict and climate change are impacting livelihoods. This was abundantly clear on a recent visit to the Democratic Republic of the Congo, where attacks by soldiers on villages -- raping and pillaging -- has left destruction and fear, destroying infrastructure, crops and water supplies.

On average, in Africa 40 per cent of children under five years old are stunted which is an indication of chronic under-nutrition. Stunting is high throughout Africa and Asia and among marginalized people throughout the world.

Children who are chronically undernourished before their second birthday are likely to have diminished cognitive and physical development for the rest of their lives. The burden these children carry and the disadvantages they face are not immediately apparent. Children who are stunted are short for their age, but if you saw them and didn't know how old they were, you might assume they were well.

Under-nutrition is an underlying cause of child mortality -- it moves silently and stealthily, inhibiting children's growth and pushing them closer towards death when the state of their health is already precarious. If a child suffers diarrhea from lack of clean water, it will drain nutrients from his or her body. Children who are weakened by nutritional deficiencies cannot stave off illness for long, and the frequent bouts of illness they experience make them even weaker. More than a third of the children who died from pneumonia, diarrhea and other illnesses could have survived if they had not been undernourished.

The health of the child is inextricably linked to the health of the mother. Maternal under-nutrition affects women's chances of surviving pregnancy. Women who were stunted as girls, whose nutritional status was poor when they conceived or who didn't gain enough weight during pregnancy may deliver babies with low birth weight; these infants in turn may never recoup from their early disadvantage. Like other undernourished children, they may be susceptible to infectious disease and death, and as adults they may face a higher risk of chronic illness such as heart disease and diabetes.

Under-nutrition diminishes the ability of children to learn and earn throughout their lives. Nutritional deprivation leaves children tired and weak, and lowers their IQs, so they perform poorly in school. As adults they are less productive and earn less than their healthy peers. Thus, the cycle of under-nutrition and poverty repeats itself, generation after generation.

It is critical now, more than ever, that the most vulnerable nations, along with international partners, invest wisely in nutrition interventions, which are demonstrated to be among the best investments in development that countries can make. The period from the mother's pregnancy through the first two years of the child's life provides a crucial window of opportunity in which nutrition interventions can be effectively delivered with long-term returns over lifetimes.

While on this World Food Day more people are suffering from hunger and malnutrition, there must be a renewed commitment to save lives.

The world must seriously address the impacts of climate change, conflict and natural disasters on water availability, crops, and food supplies, particularly in the most vulnerable regions of the world. By doing so we can make significant strides to meet and exceed the Millennium Development Goals by 2015.

About the UNICEF Executive Director

Ann M. Veneman assumed the leadership of UNICEF on 1 May 2005, becoming the fifth Executive Director to lead UNICEF in its 60-year history. Prior to joining UNICEF, Veneman served as Secretary of the United States Department of Agriculture.

At UNICEF, Veneman directs a global agency of over 10,000 staff and annual total resources of more than $3 billion, funded entirely by the voluntary contributions of governments, businesses, foundations and individuals. Since assuming the position of Executive Director, she has traveled around the world, witnessing firsthand the work of UNICEF, speaking at meetings and conferences, and visiting heads of state or government and other partners.

For further information, please contact:
Christopher de Bono, UNICEF NY,
Tel + 1 212 303 7984;


Post a Comment

<< Home