Nutritional Aid is Cost-effective Measure Against Health and Hunger Problems, World Vision Tells Congress

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Aid that promotes nutrition and food security has wide-ranging benefits compared to its costs in the fight against poverty-related problems, Robert Zachritz, advocacy director at international aid agency World Vision, told a Congressional hearing on global hunger. He cites findings from Nobel laureates and a Lancet medical journal study in Haiti.

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“In this tight budget environment, improving nutrition is one of the most cost-effective ways to address many global problems,” Robert Zachritz, World Vision’s advocacy director, told a Congressional hearing on global hunger.

Aid that promotes nutrition and food security has wide-ranging benefits compared to its costs in the fight against poverty-related problems, according to a top humanitarian policy analyst at international aid agency World Vision.

“In this tight budget environment, improving nutrition is one of the most cost-effective ways to address many global problems,” Robert Zachritz, World Vision’s advocacy director, today told a Congressional hearing on global hunger. "While it is a basic human right, access to sufficient food for a healthy, productive life has not been secured for millions around the world and the consequences are more illness and death.”

More than a billion people live on the verge of hunger, which means one in every six persons on earth. Nearly nine million children under age five die every year of preventable causes, and malnutrition underlies more than one-third of these deaths. More than 150 million children under the age of 5 are stunted and another 19 million are severely wasted -- conditions that can permanently damage their physical and mental development.

World Vision’s Zachritz cited a panel of eight economists, including five Nobel Prize laureates, who in May 2008 ranked the most cost-effective interventions to address 10 major global challenges. Half of the top 10 solutions with the most benefit for cost related specifically to nutrition, they found. These target nutrition for children under age two, fortifying foods with iron and iodine, and promoting nutrition at the community level.

Beyond its short-term consequences, childhood malnutrition has debilitating long-term consequences of stunted physical and cognitive development, lower economic productivity, and greater susceptibility to disease, research has shown.

This has long been evident in Haiti, where World Vision partnered in a Lancet-published study that showed stunting and wasting were reduced more effectively by a preventive approach providing nutritional aid for at-risk children under age two than by using a curative approach for already-malnourished children. The findings support a shift in how to fight the impact of childhood malnutrition.

World Vision is appealing to members of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus at the hearing, titled “Facing Global Hunger: Food as Right,” to fully fund the U.S. Food for Peace and McGovern-Dole International Food for Education programs and to support the Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative proposed last year by President Obama, including nutrition and agriculture development programs.

“There is a big difference between stating a right and ensuring that right is preserved,” said Zachritz.

The Christian humanitarian agency World Vision is actively fighting hunger and poverty in almost 100 countries. The organization distributes emergency food aid and also works to combat hunger’s causes through longer-term agricultural and livelihood programs such as providing local farmers with the seeds, tools and training they need to grow their own food and feed their own communities.

World Vision is a Christian humanitarian organization dedicated to working with children, families and their communities worldwide to reach their full potential by tackling the causes of poverty and injustice. For more information, please visit http://www.worldvision.org

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Geraldine Ryerson-Cruz
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