Hunger and Malnutrition
More people die from hunger than in wars.
To be healthy and active, we must have food in adequate quantity, quality and variety to meet our energy and nutrient requirements.
Without adequate nutrition, children cannot develop their potential to the fullest, and adults will experience difficulty in maintaining or expanding theirs.
Not everyone has adequate access to the food they need, and this has led to large-scale hunger and malnutrition in the world. More than 850 million people today are chronically undernourished and unable to obtain sufficient food to meet even minimum energy needs – most of them are women and children.
Approximately 200 million children under five years of age suffer from acute or chronic symptoms of malnutrition; during seasonal food shortages, and in times of famine and social unrest, this number increases.
According to some estimates, malnutrition is an important factor among the nearly 13 million children under five who die every year from preventable diseases and infections, such as measles, diarrhoea, malaria and pneumonia, or from some combination of these.
Hunger and malnutrition kill more people every year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined.
The overwhelming majority of the undernourished are in developing countries, which account for 95% (798 million) of the undernourished; 34 million people in countries in transition and 10 million in industrialized countries are estimated to be undernourished.
At the regional level, Asia and the Pacific account for three-fifths (505 million) of the world’s undernourished; India alone has 214 million undernourished people. Almost one-quarter (198 million) of the undernourished are in Sub-Saharan Africa, which is also the region with the highest proportion of its population undernourished.
Approximately 13% of people (30.5 million men, women and children) in the USA live below the poverty line. Included in this group are 14.5 million children (20.5% of all children in the USA). This statistic speaks to the need to promote the common good.
While the US economy continues to expand, this expansion has not benefited all members of society. The gap between rich and poor in the USA continues to expand, at the expense of the common good.
Malnutrition is one of the prime causes of low birth-weight babies and poor growth. Low birth-weight babies who survive are likely to suffer growth retardation and illness throughout their childhood, adolescence and into adulthood, and growth-retarded adult women are likely to carry on the vicious cycle of malnutrition by giving birth to low birth-weight babies.
Links between malnutrition in early life – including the period of foetal growth – and the development later in life of chronic health conditions such as coronary heart disease, diabetes and high blood pressure are also emerging. Some 30 million infants are born each year in developing countries with impaired growth caused by poor nutrition in the womb.
Excerpted from: JUSTICE AND PEACE: AN AUGUSTINIAN CONTRIBUTION TO TOPICS OF JUSTICE AND PEACE, Volume II Number 28 – September 2006.