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close this bookTackling Hunger in a World Full of Food: Tasks Ahead for Food Aid (WFP)
close this folder1. Food security: sustaining people
View the documentIntroduction
View the documentTimes of plenty do not rule out hunger
View the documentHumanitarian crises and acute hunger
View the documentHunger within the household
View the documentThe chronically poor and hungry
View the documentThe geography of hunger

Hunger within the household

1.9 Secondly, there are poor people who are more vulnerable than others at critical times of the life cycle, including babies in the womb, the new-born, young child-bearing/lactating women. Those yet to be born suffer a deficiency of nutrients if their mothers are themselves malnourished since the "programming" of chronic diseases among adults starts with malnutrition among women during pregnancy (Hoet 1995). The dangers of premature birth, low birth-weight at normal partum, and growth retardation due to nutrient deficiencies or health problems represent major constraints to normal childhood development.

Eradication of malnutrition would reduce children' deaths from infectious diseases by 50 per cent

1.10 If the constraints at birth are compounded by a continued lack of food, the danger of infant and child mortality, or at least sub-optimal growth, is huge. Food-deprived children will be smaller and more likely to die young-it is difficult to make up for damage inflicted in the first 5 years (Pollitt et al. 1995). Increased incidence of disease has a greater negative impact on child nutrition among households that are already calorie-deficient than among food secure households (Haddad et al. 1995). Conversely, if malnutrition were totally eradicated from the globe the risk of mortality among infants exposed to infectious disease would be lowered by more than 50 percent (Pelletier 1994). The associations among food, nutrition and health are crucial. Unless actions are taken today to remove the threat of hunger there are likely be around 200 million chronically underweight children under the age of five in the year 2020 (FAO 1995b; Rosegrant et al. 1995).
1.11 But, even if children survive severe malnutrition early on, they are likely to become disadvantaged adults, possible victims of future emergencies. They will be less productive and thus be faced with the chronic burdens of poverty. Mothers will face harder pregnancies and give birth to nutritionally-compromised children, and both men and women will face health and productivity constraints. In sum, hunger begets hunger.

The longer hunger persists, the harder it becomes to resolve

1.12 Given its inter-generational reach, the longer hunger persists the harder it becomes to resolve. Actions to address the current hunger of mothers and infants have significant benefits for long-term food security. Investing in people, not just in their productive assets (such as land, tools, and crops), represents a 'pre-investment' in food security.