Food assistance offered by the World Food programme (WFP) and other anti-hunger organizations has helped save the lives of many people, especially children in hunger stricken areas. However, most of the food aid offered in the world lacks enough micronutrients and proteins which are necessary in preventing stunting, a condition which damages the body and mind of children. Many children in hunger stricken zones are thus affected leading to a situation where they lack equal opportunities as the rest of the children.
However, this problem may soon be over as anti-hunger organizations are now approaching food aid with a perspective of health, a strategy that should have been in play a long time ago. Martin Bloem, a trained doctor and the WFP’s nutrition and HIV unit Chief says he has worked in field of food aid for 3 decades but it is only recently that the importance of nutrition has been recognized by the policy makers. Nutrition helps to build resistance against diseases, ensure that there is equity, boost economic development and enhance intellectual development. Every person therefore has a right to nutrients and not just the right food.
This approach to food aid will impact positively on the lives of many people in the world relying on food assistance for survival. With proper nutrition, stunting in children can be prevented between conception and 2 years giving them a normal life where they can leap economic and health benefits just like other children in the world. According to research conducted by the International Food Policy Research Institute, proper nutrition has been shown to reduce the chances of being diabetic and obese. This new approach to food aid will thus help to reduce these conditions and other nutritional problems such as heart diseases which are currently on the rise in the globe and have been shown to have devastating effects on the economies.
In the effort to combat stunting, the World Food programme has adopted an approach which includes quality improvement and diversification of its food products, supplementation of home diets with micronutrients and provision of fortified food in the right mix to help nourish the mothers. Supplementation with micronutrients has however elicited concerns from development programs with the argument that it cannot produce overall long- term benefits to the economy. The approach has however been defended as micronutrients are cost effective and both long term and medium term solutions are essential.
This approach by the World Food Programme serves as both as a long term investment and an emergency intervention where they invest in the right nutrition which will in turn save the lives of many and prevent more costs that would have occurred later in life. Many non- governmental organizations have shared this perspective of the right to nutrients and have started campaigning to have nutrition placed on the agenda of global development. A recent report that was released by the UNICEF calling for increased efforts to fight child stunting has shown that these approaches are working but there are still many people who have not been reached.