All Parents Want a Life Free from Hunger for Their Children

Kristin Wald, the Educational Advisor at The Parent du Jour, was invited by MamaDrama Consulting to attend the kick-off event for Save the Children’s report – A Life Free From Hunger – about global malnutrition and what the global community can do about it.  Kristin shares what she learned here.  If you are moved to act, donate at this secure Save the Children site. Also, you can attend the Advocacy Summit is in Washington D.C. in March.

It doesn’t matter if you are a parent in the United States or Gambia — if you are the parent of a hungry child, you feel that pain the same way.  This was the image Dr. Stanley Zlotkin, one of the panelists at a recent Save the Children event at the Millennium Hotel at One United Nations Plaza, shared with the attendees.  The numbers we hear regarding children and malnutrition are often overwhelming: two million child deaths each year, 30 million children affected each year, and 450 million children affected by stunting over the next 15 years.  However, Dr. Zlotkin emphasized that it doesn’t mean that individuals and governments can’t make a difference.  And that is the message that will hopefully resonate and spur governments and their citizens to action.

On February 15th, 2012, Save the Children released a report titled: A Life Free From Hunger.(PDF)  The report outlines the hidden crisis of chronic malnutrition and its causes.  It highlights and demands  a call to action to combat the effects of malnutrition that are too often overlooked because its effects are less immediately dramatic than acute malnutrition – or starvation.  However, chronic malnutrition affects one in four of the world’s children. Yes, that’s 25% of the world’s children who suffer effects like stunted physical and mental growth and a host of other serious side-effects for the rest of their lives.

So what is there to do?  To spread the word about the report, together with the Canadian and Zambian consulates, Save the Children co-hosted a star-studded panel of experts. Speaking with passion and urgency, each speaker outlined what she or he felt had to be done.  Ambassador Rischchynski, the Canadian Permanent Representative to the UN, pointed out that the global community is not on track to reach the goals set in Scaling Up for Nutrition (SUN). He emphasized that as more children survive, we must ensure that their quality of life is worthy of them.

Leading economist Jeffrey Sachs, who serves as the UN Secretary-General’s Special Advisor on the Millenium Development Goals and directs The Earth Institute at Columbia University, echoed some of those ideas. Referring to costs listed in the report, he asked that the audience and panel members not simplify the problem.  He said, “We’ll feel good simplifying, and then we’ll feel bad with the outcomes.”  Sachs emphasized promoting integrated strategies and utilizing highly systematic methods of distribution.  Saying that solving the problem is “harder than it looks,” Sachs went on to warn that the program is “woefully deficient in funding,” but with a combination of systems, metrics, innovation, and science, tremendous progress could be made.

Kathryn Bolles, the hands-on Senior Director for Health and Nutrition at Save the Children, answered the question of “Why now? Why this push?” by pointing out that several hallmark events are converging: The SUN Movement, the L’Aquila Initiative, and the 1000 Days Partnership all make 2012 a critical year for exposing the realities of chronically malnourished children around the world.  Well-nourished children not only survive, she said, they survive to be healthy, productive members of their societies.

Dr. Stanley Zlotkin, recipient of the prestigious “Order of Canada” and the developer of a micronutrient powder supplement called “Sprinkles,” spoke next. To try to alleviate the weight of the information shared, Dr.  Zlotkin pointed out that even though solving the malnutrition crisis is “harder than it looks,” that doesn’t mean individuals and governments can’t make a difference.  His point was that the huge numbers come down to one parent holding one hungry child.  For that parent, the child’s pain is very real, very deep.  His hope for the release of the report was that it would spark innovation and action in the international community. He wrote about the report for Huffington Post in Canada.

Werner Schultink, the Associate Director for Nutrition at UNICEF, talked about the importance of understanding the wide-reaching negative effects of malnutrition.  It’s not only stunting, although that is a visible trigger for the public to relate to, it is also pneumonia, diarrhea, and susceptibility to diseases and infections that result from the lack of minerals, vitamins and general nutrition.  “It is very well possible to reduce stunting,” Schultink asserted.  26 developing countries have signed onto the SUN movement, and positive changes in implementation are already happening.

Last to speak on the panel was perhaps the most direct stakeholder, Dr. Mwaba Kasese Bota, the Ambassador to the United Nations from Zambia. In Zambia, she said, 10% of the children suffer from malnutrition. Even more shocking, 45% of the children under five have signs of stunting related to malnutrition. However, thanks to a new mother and child health ministry, one stop health centers are providing social services, vitamin supplementation, and nutrition counseling. Seeds and micro-loans as well as access to domestic and livestock water are going out to small farmers. Support of these programs, Dr. Kasese Bota said, is essential.

Save the Children‘s efforts in supporting Every Woman Every Child, spearheaded by the United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, will include up to $500 million over five years.  However, the World Bank estimates that getting the needed services to the children who need them will cost $10 billion.  Split among developing and developed countries, Save the Children believes that amount is manageable.

Please read the release from February 15th: Save the Children Report on Hidden Malnutrition Crisis.

And for detailed information, including a simple graph on page five which illustrates the causes and interventions in child nutrition, download the PDF of the new report here: A Life Free From Hunger.



Lisa Duggan

Lisa Duggan is the Founder and CEO of The Modern Village, and publisher of and

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