Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Save the Children Food for Thought report.

Today is a special day. Today is the day Save the Children publishes their report on the affect of malnutrition  on cognitive and educational development in children. Today is the day we, the world, could start to do something about hunger.

I have been a supporter of Save the Children for some time now and when asked to write about this new report I jumped at the chance. As someone who works in a school I thought I was pretty aware of the effects of hunger on the ability of children to learn, but the files I have read from Save the Children take the premise to another level.

There have been times in the past when I have had to go to our school kitchens to find some fruit, milk, maybe a sandwich for a child who has had no breakfast, who is pale and staring into space, unable to learn. Think about yourself and how you feel if your tummy is rumbling .. hard to concentrate isn't it? But how do you think it feels when you haven't eaten properly ... well ... ever? How do you think it feels to eat once a day and maybe that meal consists only of grass or leaves or, on a good day, wild fruit? And how does it feel when that day is not the only day like that ... that every day is a hungry day?

Nguoth - photo courtesy of Save the Children

Nguoth is a 12 year old boy who lives in the Akobo region of South Sudan. He is 12, but he looks like an 8 year old. He has missed two years of school completely because when he was 8 the shortage of food became so acute he and his family were forced to scavenge for wild fruit, their only food source when their cattle were taken due to inter communal conflicts. The Akobo region is described by the UN as "the hungriest place on earth". Floods and drought have destroyed gardens used to grow crops and conflict has resulted in constant tension, fear and the cattle raids that have denied families access to milk.

At the moment Nguoth is back at school, but says that even now he misses two days a week purely through hunger. He has nothing to eat before school and spends all day feeling "shivery". He wants to be a doctor when he grows up ...

27.7% of children in this area are malnourished, 7% severely. 

Kasturi - photo courtesy of Save the Children

Hunger is not restricted to Africa. All over the world malnutrition is affecting children and devastating their futures. Kasturi, the little girl in the photo above, is 8 years old. She was born a twin, but her twin died when she was 10 months old. Her mother couldn't provide enough breast milk to feed both children.

Not only did the lack of food cause such obvious tragedy, there is an insidious and hidden threat. 85% of brain growth takes place in the first 5 years of life. If you don't have enough food then your development is affected. This means cognitive, language and social skills - all reduced for the sole reason that a child does not have the right nutrition.

Kasturi struggles with her academic work. She finds it hard to keep up with other children and has had to stay in the same class for 2 years. Sadly Kasturi is not alone in this. In India 29.8% of children are underweight, 38.4% of children under 3 are stunted.

These statistics, shocking as they are, are not nearly as shocking as the fact that if these children had enough food to eat they would not be suffering in this way. Not as shocking as the fact that there is enough food in the world to go round - it just just doesn't get to people like Nguoth and Kasturi. If they had enough food and their mothers had enough food when they were pregnant or breast feeding their development would not be stunted and they would not have to go through the daily agony of extreme hunger.

I find it hard to comprehend that in this day and age there are children, people, anywhere in the world who have to scavenge for wild fruit to survive. As the people of the West grow obscenely fat, tucking into three meals a day, supplemented by snacking, there are children out there who wake up every day with the pain of hunger the only thing in their bellies.

I cannot imagine how hard it must be for a parent not to be able to provide enough food for their children - to watch them die, to watch them struggle to concentrate because they are so desperately hungry, to watch them fail at school for the simple fact that they are not nourished.

Save the Children are out in many of these places right now, providing support in the way of schools, teachers, books, advice on breast feeding and nutrition. But they need our help. Even with the best teachers in the world if children are malnourished they will, on average, be 20% less literate than their better nourished companions.This, in turn, affects their life chances and the vicious circle continues. There is enough food in our world. The problem is that its distribution is not organised well enough. Greed gets in the way of humanity.

 The G8 leaders are meeting in the UK on June 17th and we need to make them realise that something needs to be done. We need to raise awareness and make hunger disappear from our world. We are in the 21st Century and yet every 15 seconds a child dies from hunger.

Every 15 seconds. A child dies from hunger.

And if they don't die their life prospects can be devastated.

Would you accept that fact if the children were British, or American, or Australian??

Would you accept this for your child? Your grandchild?

So ... what can you do?

3. Join in with the #foodforthought Twitter party on Tuesday 28th May 1-2pm GMT

4. Blog about this issue

5. Talk about, share this issue!!!

Malnutrition is the underlying cause in the death of 2.3 million children every year. Save the Children's new report identifies for the first time the impact of malnutrition on educational outcomes across a range of countries. Not only are children dying they are have their life chances devastated for the simple reason that they are hungry. Every day they are hungry.

We must be able to do something about this. Please help.
Thank you for reading.

All information and statistics courtesy of Save the Children


Nell Heshram said...

The statistics are shocking. Save the Children are doing a much-needed job here.

Anonymous said...

It's so so sad isn't it x

kateonthinice said...

Such a powerful post. Really gets the message across. Thank you so much for writing it speaking for myself and for Save the Children

sarah at secret housewife said...

Hi Nell. Thank you so much for your comment. I just hope Save the Children can achieve what they need. The figures are truly shocking. x

Hi Just the way we want to
Yes. It is so sad - just heartbreaking. Well done to you for getting involved and posting on your blog too. I hope something good comes from this. Sarah x

Hello Kate
Thank you.Thanks for all your help on this. Hope it makes a difference.