A sad report was released last week by Britain-based charity Save the Children. According to the report, one child in four simply goes to bed hungry or under-nourished, resulting in developmental and educational hurdles that will impact them for the rest of their lives.
Tackling childhood malnutrition is a Millennium Development Goal, one that was supposed to be largely resolved by 2020. According to the Save the Children study, a lot more work needs to be done to resolve the pressing issue. Consider that malnourishment during a mother’s pregnancy and in the first two years of a child’s life can set the boy or girl on a course that is impossible to overcome. Learning in school becomes a difficult task for those who have endured hunger-pangs early in their childhood. Save the Children says about 20 per cent of children cannot follow even simple instructions in school as a result of nutritional deficiencies, resulting in poor success levels, higher school drop-out statistics and lower earning potential. In effect, not having sufficient nutritious food in the early years of life leads to a life of deprivation, hardship, with individuals facing tougher socioeconomic hurdles because of not having enough nutrients.
So what can be done? Certainly, the government of the UAE is an example to others on its commitment to ending the pressing issue of childhood malnutrition elsewhere. In Yemen, for example, where every second child faces malnourishment, the UAE has led the way in providing funds and materials to ensure the most vulnerable receive the calories they need.
When leaders of the G8 meet in Northern Ireland later this month, to discuss world economic and political affairs, a conference will be held simultaneously in London to raise awareness, increase programme and provide financial assistance to organisations and relief agencies shouldering the burden of fighting childhood nutrition.
There are 870 million around the world who are underfed and malnourished today. That is food for thought.