Washington Witness: Progress toward ending hunger falters

Sep 30, 2019 by

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When Halita Gambo’s baby, Janada, was born with a low birth weight, she turned to a Mennonite Central Committee-supported organization in northeastern Nigeria for assistance.

Charles Kwuelum


Women and Youth Empowerment for Advancement of Health Initiatives works in Adamawa State to reduce infant and maternal mortality. Their work includes trainings, which Gambo and other women attend, on nutrition and hygiene.

Severe food insecurity continues to be a problem in northeastern Nigeria, with children under age 5 and lactating mothers most at risk. Fighting between Boko Haram and the Nigerian military has caused many to flee their homes. Sanitation and health-care services are inadequate.

Climate change has led to a longer lean season, followed by floods that wash away crops and farmlands. All of this has contributed to malnutrition and stunted growth.

Around the globe, 1 out of 7 newborns has a low birth weight, and 151 million children are stunted. Every day, about 830 women die from preventable complications related to pregnancy or childbirth, and 7,000 babies die in the first month of life.

According to the United Nations’ 2019 State of Food Security and Nutrition in the World report, it is estimated that 2 billion people do not have regular access to safe, nutritious and adequate food.

One of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals is to achieve zero hunger by 2030. But after years of decline, global hunger has increased in the last several years. To get back on track and achieve this ambitious goal, wealthy countries will need to increase support for programs to enhance access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food. Improved nutrition will lead to improved health for lactating mothers and children.

In 2018 the United States reached more than 28 million children with life-saving nutrition interventions through the U.S. Agency for International Development. However, more needs to be done. Reps. Roger Marshall, Republican of Kansas, and James McGovern, Democrat of Massachusetts, have introduced a resolution to encourage greater efforts by the United States to eradicate global malnutrition. A Senate companion has been introduced by Sens. Susan Collins, Republican of Maine, and Chris Coons, Democrat of Delaware.

As Christians, we are called to care for the most vulnerable in society. We can do so by supporting MCC’s response in northeast Nigeria and elsewhere.

We also must mobilize others and add our voices to request that Congress invest in a multi-sectoral nutrition strategy to improve the health of mothers and children around the world. These kinds of efforts can help reduce economic shocks that prolong and worsen the severity of food crises in places like northeastern Nigeria.

Scripture reminds us, “God said, ‘See, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit; you shall have them for food’ ” (Gen. 1:29).

The earth produces abundant food. Let us do all that we can to ensure that everyone has sufficient nourishment and is able to thrive.

Learn more at washingtonmemo.org/portfolio/nutrition.

Charles Kwuelum is legislative associate for international affairs in the Mennonite Central Committee U.S. Washington Office.

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