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UN Asked To Help End Deadly Toll Of Child Hunger

UN Agency Chiefs Call On US Congress To Help End Deadly Toll Of Child Hunger Now

Calling the plight of hundreds of millions of poor, malnourished children who die or fail to develop properly “an affront to conscience,” senior United Nations officials have appealed to the United States Congress to help end child hunger now.

“Some 18,000 children will die of hunger and malnutrition today,” UN World Food Programme (WFP) Executive Director of the WFP James Morris told the US Senate Foreign Relations Committee yesterday, testifying on the Ending Child Hunger and Undernutrition Initiative.

“That is hard for people in the US or Europe to comprehend. But Within a month, we will lose more children to hunger than there are people living here in Washington. Yet there are no headlines and no public outcry. Instead, these poor, forgotten children die in silence in places like Guatemala, Bangladesh and Zambia - far from our sight. This need not happen: we have every tool we need to solve hunger.”

The Initiative promotes an “essential package,” including basic daily health, hygiene and nutrition practices and a set of life-saving commodities such as micronutrients, clean water, hand washing with soap and parasite control such as de-worming, at an estimated cost of $79 per family.

The initiative, though ambitious, is doable, not only from an economic standpoint but a practical one, since the population of undernourished children tends to be highly concentrated, said Mr. Morris, who appeared together with UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) Executive Director Ann Veneman, a core partner in the project.

He stressed that beyond the death toll, the physical damage and ill health brought on by malnutrition have lasting impact on those children who survive, affecting every stage and aspect of life, not only stunting bodies but slowing mental growth – dropping IQ by 10, 15 points or more. In some countries, stunting rates exceed 60 percent.

“Imagine the impact on poor countries, seeking to develop their economies. How can their workers compete? The bottom line is that very little - not education and certainly not development - can happen where hunger rules,” he said.

“We must help these children early on in life. Once severe malnutrition takes its toll, it cannot be reversed later on. There’s no such thing as retroactive nutrition.”

The two UN agency heads are working to engage partners throughout the aid world - humanitarian organizations, foundations and businesses, as well as governments - to eliminate the extreme hunger that still threatens the lives of an estimated 400 million children in the developing world today.

According to the Initiative, the cost of helping 100 million families protect their children from hunger and undernutrition is estimated at roughly $8 billion. Of this amount, it is estimated that approximately $1 billion of new international resources could be effectively programmed immediately, Mr. Morris said.

“This investment can change lives, even generations. And the cost of action is but a tiny fraction of the enormous costs we will shoulder by continuing to do ‘business as usual’,” he added.


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