The Fight for Food

Every year, 3.5 million mothers and children below the age of five die in poor countries because they do not have the nutrition they need to fight common diseases, and millions of others' health and development are permanently impaired. Simple, low-cost solutions, like fortification of basic foodstuffs with essential vitamins and minerals, mean that this tragedy need never occur.

GENEVA – Every year, 3.5 million mothers and children below the age of five die in poor countries because they do not have the nutrition they need to fight common diseases. Three-quarters of them could have survived diarrhea or malaria if they had been properly nourished.

For those who do survive, the future looks grim: all studies show that children who are undernourished in the first two years of life suffer health problems and lag in development for the rest of their lives. Insufficient nourishment impedes their capacity to learn, fitness to work, and ability to develop their talents. Besides the human suffering, the economic costs of malnutrition are huge: according to the World Bank, countries where malnutrition is most prevalent lose, on average, between 2% and 3% of their GDP.

The issue is not severe and acute malnutrition, which hits populations suddenly, usually as a result of conflict. The question is how we attract the attention of the European Union and the G8 countries to the malnutrition that experts call “hidden hunger,” which affects one in every three people worldwide. It is caused by imbalanced nutrition or a lack of vitamins and essential minerals that enable the human body to grow and that maintain its vital functions.

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