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close this bookTackling Hunger in a World Full of Food: Tasks Ahead for Food Aid (WFP)
close this folder3. Sustaining and enhancing lives
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View the documentHunger constrains human development
View the documentThe key role of women in food security

Hunger constrains human development

3.2 People who benefit from food aid are survivors not failures-they have typically managed to live through droughts, nurture families through the depredations of poverty and hunger, and overcome major traumas of conflict or social disruption. What they deserve is a chance to move on in their lives, to move beyond survival and build a sustainable livelihood. Food aid can help them do it.

Damage inflicted on children by hunger is often irreversible

3.3 Food aid provided at crucial times of an individual's life is a pre-investment in future health and productivity. People cannot eat retroactively. It is extremely difficult to make up for the damage inflicted by inadequate nutrition in the first five years of life. The nutritional welfare of mothers and infants is vital. If it is inadequate, the damage is both lasting and far broader than the individuals and families involved. Society as a whole suffers losses when children cannot learn, when poor health restricts energy and productivity, when hungry women give birth to a new generation that is malnourished. What is at stake is the productive potential of enormous numbers of affected individuals. To allow these losses is to allow the perpetuation of hunger and poverty.
3.4 Food aid can help to break the cycle of hunger by enabling the poor to gain better access to services and markets that help them take the first important steps out of food insecurity. Hunger is integrally linked to other conditions which restrict human potential-poor sanitation and hygiene, illiteracy, lack of education facilities, and a lack of access to health care. Targeted food aid not only responds to immediate hunger but also draws vulnerable mothers and children to clinics, encourages and enables poor women to attend literacy and reproductive health training, induces parents to allow their daughters to attend school, supports communities wishing to develop improved water supply and sanitary facilities, or improves the quality and reach of nutrition education. Food aid can also give destitute women the time and resource-buffer that permits them to access productive credit, an approach pioneered by the Grammeen Bank. Used in such ways, food aid represents a pre-investment in human potential, a way of letting the poor take advantage of external assistance and frees them from long-run dependency.