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Home > Student Gazette > Nutrition

Malnutrition: the Bane Continues

Blandine Tulasne , Marion Leglayle

2 May 2007

A billion adults in the world are too fat, and three million among these are obese. Obesity results in the death of 300 000 people a year in the United States. It is better to be dying from over-eating, or malnutrition?

Nowadays, 24 000 people die a day and 9 million a year of hunger or disease caused by malnutrition.
6 million of those who die are children younger than five years old! This is the equivalent of all the children of France and Italy of this age group dying in a single year. However, it is obviously not European children who are dying, it is the children of the Third-World (the part of the world we refer to as the South), and in particular African children who suffer from malnutrition.
These people suffer chronically from acute malnutrition. Acute malnutrition is declared when people reach a nutritional state that corresponds to less than 1 500 kcal/day, whilst we in France have 2 500 to 3 000 kcal/day.

Whilst the North fills its belly, the South dies of hunger.

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) agricultural production is sufficient to feed 12 billion people with about 2 700kcal/day.
There however solutions to these problems.
In Niger, Médecins Sans Frontières Works on improving the nutrition of children under five years old, to help them gain weight. A miracle solution has been found: the Plumpy’nut, a milk paste very high in calories. A child can take one with every meal, and the foil wrapped packets each contain 500 calories. This remedy quickly helps children return home, and here it will be the child’s mother who can continue to administer Plumpy’nut.
As this is the case, why do all malnourished children not have access to this paste?
Africa can also have access to GMOs, which will result in better harvests for the farmers, but the seeds are very expensive, and this can get them into debt. Furthermore we do not know what consequences there are from the use of GMOs. It would also be bad were they to get used to using GMOs, as this would make them dependent on the seed producers (who are all in the North) and this will accentuate already existing neo-colonialism.
During this time the North is in a comfortable situation, 40% of their harvests and cereals are fed to livestock, instead of being put to good to use in feeding poorer countries.

What ideas for a solution?
Is it better to help those suffering from malnutrition to produce better food in higher quantities in their local production, or to send them food ?
Should they be train themselves and farm their lands according to traditional methods, or be sent technicians and NGOs?

The problem of malnutrition is, as you have seen, far from being resolved. The curse that weighs upon the shoulders of these people and will never be lifted if we, rich and healthy countries, do nothing to change things! Do you want countries that need are help tell themselves that anyway, we don’t care about them, and that we will let them die of hunger or disease? If you do not want this negative image to be attributed to us, it is now that you must react in order to move things along and to that this situation of misery finally comes to an END. Their futures are in our hands, it is up to us to act accordingly.