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Funding could help malnutrition battle

Jeff Tyler Nov 11, 2009

Funding could help malnutrition battle

Jeff Tyler Nov 11, 2009


Kai Ryssdal: Tomorrow in Rome the United Nations will be hosting a summit on food security. The UN says more than a billion people worldwide now don’t get enough food. A report out today from the United Nations Children’s Fund links poor nutrition to a third of all child deaths under the age of 5. It also cites malnutrition as a cause of stunted growth in 200 million children living in developing countries. Marketplace’s Jeff Tyler reports that hunger is, in theory, one of those problems that money could pretty easily solve.

JEFF TYLER: Malnutrition is devastating to the health and economic prospects of a young child.

Ann Veneman, Executive Director of UNICEF, says the negative impact of malnutrition on brain development can keep whole communities in poverty.

ANN Veneman: The children are not going to do as well in school. Therefore, they probably won’t earn as much and contribute economically as well to the overall well-being of the country.

But nutrition programs often don’t get the financial support they need. Not exactly health, but not strictly an education issue either, nutrition often falls through the cracks. Even though the price is right. In some cases, just a few dollars per child.

ALAN DE Brauw: Nutrition interventions are the most cost-effective interventions we have in combating poverty.

That’s Alan De Brauw with the International Food Policy Research Institute. He agrees that good early childhood nutrition can improve economic prospects.

Brauw: Nutrition programs that were run in Guatemala in the 1960s actually had long-term effects on cognitive ability and even wages in adults.

Ann Veneman with UNICEF says international donors need to step up.

Veneman: There needs to be more investment in nutrition generally. It has a very high and strong impact on children’s health.

Veneman estimates that ending childhood malnourishment could cost hundreds of millions of dollars. We should get a more precise price tag in the next few days, when the World Bank releases its own financial estimates.

I’m Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.

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