Opportunity Begins Where Hunger Ends
By Dr. Charles Owubah
As a child growing up on a farm in Ghana, I have personally known hunger. The most challenging time was between planting and harvesting – "the hunger season." There were many occasions when we did not know where the next meal would come from.
Today, on World Food Day, I think of the 820 million people around the world who are undernourished.
While this statistic is shocking, the global community has actually cut the proportion of malnourished children in half over the last 40 years, and pioneered new ways to detect and treat malnutrition. However, hunger rates remain unnecessarily high. If the world stays on its current path, tens of millions more children will die of hunger by 2030, the target for the UN Sustainable Development Goal of ending malnutrition worldwide.
Preventing child deaths is a moral imperative. It should outrage us that nearly 50 million children are acutely malnourished — that's 7.3 percent of all children under the age of five. Fewer than one in four of those children can hope to access lifesaving treatment. Around the world, when a child dies before they reach their fifth birthday, malnutrition is a root cause nearly half the time — even though hunger is preventable and treatable.
In a community education session, Action Against Hunger trains parents how to detect malnutrition.
Christophe Da Silva / Action Against Hunger, Cameroon
Hearing this, and then hearing that the U.S. spends a tiny fraction of 1 percent of the federal budget fighting global hunger, you might think people don't care. In fact, most don't even know. A new poll that we just released today at Action Against Hunger found that more than 65 percent of Americans say the number of child deaths attributable to hunger is higher than they realized.
Across generations, more than 80 percent of those polled think the U.S. government isn't doing enough on global hunger, and most say they would have a more positive view of 2020 presidential candidates who address this issue.
Most Americans polled also support tax increases on ultra-wealthy individuals (57 percent) and corporations (58 percent) to combat child deaths from hunger, especially Generation Z and millennials, who are even more likely to support increased taxes for the cause.
It's a hopeful sign that younger generations also are leading the way in calls for greater U.S. involvement on this issue. Gen Z and millennials are more concerned about the link between hunger and the climate crisis, for example, which is reducing both the quality and quantity of crops, lowering yields and exacerbating water scarcity.
The world needs a better way to deal with hunger, helping fragile communities become more resilient and better able to deal with the challenges ahead. That includes empowering parents and health workers with simple tools to tell if children are malnourished before it's too late, even in places without electricity or internet access, and with low literacy rates.
An Action Against Hunger-trained community health worker shows a mother how to detect malnutrition using a diagnostic band.
Lys Arango / Action Against Hunger, India
One example of a solution is a simple, inexpensive band that acts as a "nutrition thermometer." It wraps around a child's upper arm, stopping at a color that corresponds to their nutrition status: green indicates good health, while yellow or red means the child is malnourished. Once it's known that a child needs help, they can be treated and cured through a highly effective medical intervention.
While most Americans surveyed prefer to donate food, the cure for malnutrition is not that simple. Severely malnourished children often do not have an appetite for food and cannot handle a normal diet right away. Instead, proven medical treatment involves a regimen of easily-digestible, calorie-rich and ready-to-eat packets containing essential vitamins and minerals, which can bring a child from a medical crisis to full health in 45 days. Infants and complicated cases are treated in hospitals and health centers, but often, recovery for most can take place at home, with regular monitoring by a community health worker.
Broad investment in nutrition programming is a wise investment. For example, The 2015 International Food Policy Institute reports that every $1 spent on reducing hunger can deliver up to $16 in return. Opportunity begins where hunger ends. It did for me.
The fact that you are reading this means someone invested in you, too. Now, it's our turn to build a future where no lives are wasted. At Action Against Hunger, we may never know the names or stories of the children that we are helping around the world, just as they may not know ours, but we can know that our world will be brighter if we can ensure each one has a chance to grow up healthy and strong.
On World Food Day, and every day, we must band together to ensure the basic human right of adequate nutrition for everyone, for good.
Dr. Charles Owubah is the CEO of Action Against Hunger, a global humanitarian organization committed to ending world hunger.
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EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
Jean-Marc Neveu and Olivier Civil never expected to find themselves battling against disposable mask pollution.
When they founded their recycling start-up Plaxtil in 2017, it was textile waste they set their sights on. The project developed a process that turned fabrics into a new recyclable material they describe as "ecological plastic."
Mounting Piles of Waste<p>It is not only the streets of Chatellerault where pandemic pollution is piling-up, but also the world's beaches and oceans. Once there, they can take up to 450 years to degrade and disappear.</p><p>Esther Röling, co-organizer of the annual Adventure Clean Up Challenge held on Hong Kong Island, has seen this waste firsthand. In October the sports challenge pitted teams against one another in a competition to remove trash from 13 hard-to-reach coastal areas around the city.</p><p>They find tons of both disposable and reusable masks, said Röling. "You wonder how it ended up there. Was it just thrown on the ground? Or was it in a garbage bag that broke open?"</p><p>Almost 10,000 kilometers away in Antibes on the sunny French Riviera, it's a similar picture. For the past few months, divers and clean-up volunteers working with an ocean clean-up non-profit called Operation Mer Propre have been collecting an increasing number of masks found on land and in the sea.</p><p>"Since the beginning of the lockdown when we started to count, we've reached 800, 900, [and now in total] 1000 masks," said co-founder Joko Peltier. </p><p>According to <a href="https://unctad.org/news/growing-plastic-pollution-wake-covid-19-how-trade-policy-can-help" target="_blank">UN estimates</a>, up to 75% of all coronavirus-related plastic could end up as waste in oceans and landfills.</p>
The Limits of Recycling<p>Yet not all are convinced the recycling of this waste is possible on a global scale. </p><p>"What those citizen groups are doing is really beneficial but once they collect it, it should just go to a landfill or an incinerator. They shouldn't necessarily expect it to get recycled," said Jonathan Krones, an industrial ecologist and visiting assistant professor of environmental studies at Boston College.</p><p>That's because mask recycling programs like Plaxtil are few and far between and most don't have the benefit of a readily adaptable production process. </p><p>Even in countries with solid recycling infrastructure, he says, the system is designed to separate out specific types of waste like bottles or cardboard.</p><p>"I imagine that it would be technically feasible to develop a separation process to filter out masks, but there simply aren't enough of them to make that economical," he said.</p><p>Collection is a big hurdle, he adds. Since each mask only weighs a fraction of a gram and they're scattered on roads or mixed with other trash, it is difficult and costly. </p><p>"You need a lot of raw material of the right quality to make investing in the recycling technology and the recycling system worthwhile," he said.<span></span><br></p>
Hemp, Sugar Cane and Sustainable Alternatives<p>Some projects are instead addressing the material used to make masks.</p><p>French company Geochanvre have created a mask made primarily from hemp, while in Australia, researchers at the Queensland University of Technology are experimenting with a disposable product made from agricultural waste. </p><p>Biodegradable options are exciting alternatives to reduce the fossil fuels needed for the creation of plastic-based masks, said Krones, but they don't absolve the wearer from the responsibility of what happens afterwards. </p><p>Bio-based masks often need their own composing solutions, he explains, because in landfill they can produce high amounts of the greenhouse gas methane when anaerobic bacteria feeds on the organic material. Methane is known to be significantly more potent than carbon dioxide.</p><p>"I think as long as we have in our mind that we want to have disposability, we're going to have to wrestle with a variety of different sorts of environmental tradeoffs," he said, adding that reusable, fabric masks are the best option available to most people.</p><p>Precimask is developing a clear face covering with an optional visor made from hard plastic, designed to be long-lasting.<br></p><p>Air enters either side of the cheeks through a technology normally found in pool filters and car exhaust systems, said company spokeswoman Juliette Chambet.</p><p>"We wanted to make ceramic-based filters that would be washable and cleanable, which would allow them to be reused as many times as desired without having to buy a new consumable or produce waste," she said. </p><p>Ultimately, encouraging mask wearers to think about the entire lifecycle of a mask is key, explains Neveu. </p><p>"We want people who put on the masks to realize that they are also responsible for the waste, he said. "It's not inevitable that this [pandemic] will become an environmental catastrophe.</p><p><em>Reposted with permission from </em><em><a href="https://www.dw.com/en/covid-19-recycling-pollution-trash-pandemic/a-55707817" target="_blank">Deutsche Welle</a>.</em><a href="https://www.ecowatch.com/r/entryeditor/2649032193#/" target="_self"></a></p>
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