MANILA, Philippines – It’s often difficult to make people realize the need to act on the problem of hunger and malnutrition.
What is mostly overlooked are the effects even on the healthiest person. The world’s most solvable problem can affect even a country’s economy. (READ: Why we should end hunger)
If efforts are continued and effective, however, the benefits of eliminating hunger and malnutrition can go beyond the one billion people currently suffering from it.
According to a study published in 2013 by Lawrence Haddad of the Institute of Development Studies (IDS) and the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), putting an end to the problem by investing in nutrition can lead to sustainable economic growth.
Despite what seems to be unrelated concepts, eliminating undernutrition among children can produce positive results that, in the long run, can also promote sustainability and inclusivity.
Strong evidence generated by economists, according to Haddad, shows that ending hunger can:
- Boost the Gross National Product (GNP) and bring a return investment of $30 (P1,200)* for every $1 (P40) invested
In Asia, it is predicted that GNP can increase by 11% if the nutrition status of countries is improved. This is because those who are likely to be employed as adults in high wages positions are “better nourished kids who get sick less often, are in school longer, and learn more in school.” It is expected that the region will obtain the benefits of investing in nutrition by 2019.
- Boost employment and increase wages by 5%-50%
In a study done in Guatemala, it was found that people who did not suffer from stunting at a young age are 28% more likely to grow to be highly skilled workers. Specifically, men are more likely to earn 20% more of their hourly earnings while the chances for women to own businesses increase.
- Reduce poverty by ending intergenerational cycle of poverty and malnutrition
Mothers who suffer from malnutrition are 3 times as likely to have children suffering from stunting at age 2. If these children become malnourished and suffer the consequences like diseases, the costs of treatment will definitely burden the family. This will turn into a cycle until it is solved. (READ: Ending the malnutrition cycle)
On the other hand, children who are well-nourished are 33% more likely to escape the poverty trap as adults.
- Improve educational attainment
If a child is doing great when it comes to his nutritional status, he is well-energized to attend school due to a positive development in his creativity, critical thinking, and concentration. Micronutrient deficiencies will hinder these improvements. (READ: Learning on an empty stomach)
A study done in the Philippines found that an improvement in the nutritional status of Filipino children can result in an increase of .5 in highest grade achieved in school. And as each school year passes by and is completed by a child, his lifetime earnings can increase by 20%-30%.
- Prevent deaths of children under 5 years old and stop the burden of diseases
Haddad considers hunger and malnutrition as a “human tragedy.” According to data, these problems are responsible for more than 35% of deaths of children in developing countries and are the number one biggest risk factor for diseases in Asia.
Eliminating hunger and malnutrition can prevent one-third of these deaths annually. Through this, the potentials of these children are realized once they grow and contribute to society. (READ: Too little, too much: The problem with double burden malnutrition)
A country’s best resource
A country can consider investing in nutrition as the ultimate “natural resource discovery.” However, Haddad emphasized that it is important that these investments are transformed into improved development that is not short-term.
These can only be achieved if government and the concerned authorities cooperate and coordinate in the various programs aimed at eradicating hunger and malnutrition. – Rappler.com