A 1-year-old baby girl clings to her mother at a Save the Children nutrition center in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh. Rohingya refugees – the mother is waiting to get a dose of Vitamin A for her daughter as part of Nutrition Action week.
Food Security and Nutrition
For the approximately 815 million people coping with chronic hunger, it’s not about missing a single meal; it’s about days and months and years of being undernourished.
While global efforts over the past two decades have succeeded in cutting extreme poverty and hunger by nearly half, nearly 800 million people globally are facing food insecurity and over 160 million children suffer chronic malnutrition every year. Malnutrition in children is the underlying cause of 45% of deaths in children under 5.
The United States has a multi-sectoral nutrition strategy and a whole-of-government nutrition plan that informs the U.S. approach to reducing food insecurity and malnutrition globally. The United States has joined with other world leaders to commit to ending hunger and all forms of malnutrition by 2030. It also committed to reducing stunting among 2 million children under the age of 5 by 2017. U.S. investments in food security and nutrition interventions have led to a number of countries – such as Ethiopia, Bangladesh and Rwanda – reducing stunting by over 10 percent.
Food security, livelihoods protection and strengthening and poverty alleviation programs are an essential underpinning to ensuring the survival, education and protection of children so that the intergenerational cycle of poverty can be broken.
The U.S. government must continue a focus on long-term food security as well as continuing its efforts to address malnutrition. This includes contributing to achieving global targets for reducing stunting, anemia and promoting exclusive breastfeeding practices.
In addition, more must be done to reduce the gaps between children in rural areas and children in urban areas and between children from low-income families and children from higher income families. Save the Children’s own report, Unequal Portions, show that children living in rural areas are 1.37 times more likely to be stunted than children living in urban areas. The poorest fifth of children have considerably higher stunting and wasting rates than the richest fifth.
It is also important to address gender inequities in malnutrition. For example, women and girls and those living in rural areas of Cambodia disproportionately experience poor nutritional outcomes. A women’s status in the family or home directly influences women’s diets. Women commonly eat less in times of food insecurity. Because of this gender discrimination, the U.S. government should incorporate strategies to address inequity including gender inequity in its food security and nutrition programs.
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