Urging our nation's leaders to end hunger
 

170 posts categorized "Maternal and Child Nutrition"

Watch “The Last Hunger Season” Online


The Last Hunger Season Film Series: Part 1, "Expanding Possibilities." Watch other videos in the series here.

Today’s celebration of World Food Day lifts up the role of smallholder farmers through the theme, “Family Farming: Feeding the World, Caring for the Earth.” There are plenty of these farmers to celebrate: 500 million smallholder farmers live and work in the developing world. Most of them are women.

Last year saw the publication of The Last Hunger Season: A Year in an African Farm Community on the Brink of Change, a book by Roger Thurow, senior fellow for global agriculture and food policy at The Chicago Council on Global Affairs and longtime friend of Bread for the World. Now there is a series of short documentary videos online that bring the book to life, telling the stories of smallholder farmers in Kenya.

Here’s a description of the story:

Africa’s small farmers, who comprise two-thirds of its population, toil in a time warp, living and working essentially as they did in the 1930s. Without mechanized equipment, fertilizer, or irrigation; using primitive storage facilities, roads, and markets; lacking capital, credit, and insurance; they harvest only one-quarter the yields of Western farmers, half of which spoil before getting to market. But in 2011 one group of farmers in Kenya came together to try to change their odds for success—and their families’ futures. Roger Thurow spent a year following their progress.

In The Last Hunger Season, the intimate dramas of the farmers’ lives unfold amidst growing awareness that to feed the world’s growing population, food production must double by 2050. How will the farmers, Africa, and a hungrier world deal with issues of water usage, land ownership, foreign investment, corruption, GMO’s, the changing role of women, and the politics of foreign aid?

Watch The Last Hunger Season online. Learn more about Bread’s efforts to enact much-needed reforms to U.S. food aid. Then take action to help more smallholder farmers, like those shown in Kenya, and hungry people around the world as well. 

Two Billion People Suffer from ‘Hidden Hunger’

School girl
A student who benefits from a USAID funded feeding program in Guatemala. (Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World)


By Kimberly Burge

According to a new report released this week, a staggering 2 billion people do not get the essential vitamins and minerals from the food they eat. They remain undernourished, suffering from the “hidden hunger” of micronutrient and vitamin deficiencies.

The annual Global Hunger Index (GHI) is released jointly by the International Food Policy Research Institute (IFPRI), Welthungerhilfe (one of Germany's largest private development organizations), and Concern Worldwide. The 2014 report finds that, while great strides have been made to feed the world, 805 million people are still chronically undernourished because they do not get enough to eat. Even those who get sufficient calories can suffer from hidden hunger, an often overlooked yet critical aspect of hunger and nutrition.

Hidden hunger is often hard to detect, but is potentially devastating. Hidden hunger weakens the immune system, stunts physical and intellectual growth, and can lead to death. It wreaks economic havoc as well, locking countries into cycles of poor nutrition, lost productivity, poverty, and reduced economic growth.

Bread for the World Institute has explored the issue of hidden hunger in several previous Hunger Reports. Frontline Issues in Nutrition Assistance: Hunger Report 2006 recommended food fortification and the addition of vitamin and mineral supplements to nutrition programs to help boost the health and nutritional status of those who are malnourished. For example, iodine deficiency causes problems with cognitive development and remains the world’s single greatest cause of preventable mental retardation. But developing countries are making efforts to add iodine to household salt, efforts that are paying off. Between 1997 and 2002, 67 percent of all households in sub-Saharan Africa were consuming iodized salt, along with 53 percent in South Asia, the Middle East, and North Africa; 80 percent in East Asia; and 91 percent in Latin America and the Caribbean. 

“Particularly in countries facing a high burden of malnutrition, hidden hunger goes hand in hand with other forms of malnutrition and cannot be addressed in isolation,” said Welthungerhilfe president Bärbel Dieckmann. “In the long-term, people cannot break out of the vicious cycle of poverty and malnutrition without being granted the basic right to nutritious food.”

Hidden hunger is not found exclusively in developing countries, however. It crosses borders and exists here in the United States as well, as the Institute’s Senior Editor Todd Post saw while researching Hunger Report 2012.

“In Philadelphia, I visited emergency rooms with Dr. Mariana Chilton, head of Witnesses to Hunger, who recruited women to participate in Witnesses first by targeting mothers who brought their babies to the emergency room for something they thought was unrelated to hunger,” recalls Post. “The children were suffering from a condition known as ‘failure to thrive,’ a precursor to stunting, which was malnutrition related.”

“Failure to thrive” is the clinical term for a child severely underweight for her age. Witnesses to Hunger was born out of Children’s HealthWatch, a multi-city research project that is studying the effects of hunger on the health and well-being of young children. The project screens children in emergency rooms and ambulatory care clinics at five medical centers across the country, since undernourished children have higher rates of hospitalization.

To read more about Witnesses to Hunger and Dr. Chilton’s work, see p. 52-53 of Rebalancing Act: 2012 Hunger Report.  

There was good news to be found in this year’s Global Hunger Index. The number of people going hungry has steadily decreased in most developing countries. Since 1990, hunger in the developing world has fallen by 39 percent, and 26 countries have reduced their scores by 50 percent or more. Angola, Bangladesh, Cambodia, Chad, Ghana, Malawi, Niger, Rwanda, Thailand, and Vietnam have seen the greatest improvements in their scores between the 1990 GHI and the 2014 GHI.

And bad news, too: Levels of hunger are still “alarming” in 14 countries, and “extremely alarming” in two, Burundi and Eritrea.

Kimberly Burge is the interim associate online editor for Bread for the World.

Crippling All of Humanity: A Reporter’s Reflection on Seeing Child Malnutrition

By Robin Stephenson

Earlier this year, PBS NewsHour correspondent Hari Sreenivasan traveled to Guatemala and saw the effects of malnourishment firsthand. Malnutrition, he saw, diminishes human growth, but also the future growth of a country’s economy.

Half of Guatemala’s children lack access to nutritious foods in the first two years of life. They will never reach their full potential. Physically and mentally stunted for life, malnutrition leads to health problems and reduced mental capacity. In turn, this leaves a country with a weak labor force.

Sreenivasan met one-year-old Lidia Chumil, whose diet typically consists of beans and herbs. Her mother does not have access to the nutrients she needs to feed her daughter. Baby Lidia is underweight and small for her age. It is unlikely she can ever regain what she has lost.

Reducing child malnutrition is a complex problem that requires new ways of thinking. Guatemala’s minister of food security, Luis Enrique Monterroso, told Sreenivasan that a focus on poverty interventions in the past did not work. Today, the Guatemalan government targets malnutrition.

Reps. Ander Crenshaw (R-Fla.) and Adam Smith (D-Wash.) would agree that addressing malnutrition is key. In a recent contribution to The Hill, they write, “Specifically, addressing malnutrition requires coordinated planning and programming of effective nutrition-specific and nutrition-sensitive interventions across multiple sectors, including agriculture, health, nutrition, water and sanitation, social protection and humanitarian assistance programs.”

The congressmen go on to laud the recent introduction of a USAID nutrition strategy that will strengthen the impact of federal dollars by coordinating programs and resources across government agencies. “[The strategy] also acknowledges that high rates of chronic malnutrition can significantly impact a nation’s GDP potential, as well as other economic and social costs,” they write.

As a partner, the United States can bolster efforts by the Guatemalan government with new foreign assistance programs that also target malnutrition. The Feed the Future initiative, legislation that takes a multi-sectorial approach to ending hunger, was introduced in both chambers of Congress. The legislation develops a whole-of-government strategy that supports country ownership, nutrition, and food security.

More than Guatemala’s future is economically stunted by malnutrition. There is a global price to pay.  It is estimated that childhood malnutrition will cost the global economy some $125 billion in lost GDP growth by 2030. Not to mention, hunger is presently driving children to flee Guatemala for the United States, creating an immediate crisis on our border.

Although Sreenivasan saw malnutrition up close, in a personal reflection, he steps back and takes a global view. “The question I’m left wondering is what becomes of a world where a significant portion of the population grows up without even the basic nutritional foundation to give them a shot at anything else,” he writes.  “As the business leaders in our piece say, from an economic perspective, that kind of inequality will cripple the productivity potential of entire countries. But from a human perspective, it seems like it will cripple us all.”

Robin Stephenson is the national lead for social media and senior regional organizer at Bread for the World.

Reflection: Babies Seek and Remember

Baby 500
(Joseph Molieri/Bread for the World).


By Kierra Jackson

 “And when he had taken some bread and given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, "This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance of me." (Luke 22:19)

My interest in maternal and child nutrition brought me to my full-time job at Bread for the World where I work as the major gifts coordinator/development officer. On the side, I help deliver babies as a trained doula. Something I’ve learned in this work is that, as humans, we remember—even in our very first minutes and hours of life.

If you’ve ever seen a baby pass from life in the body to life out in the world, you may have noticed a couple of things. First, in the moments before birth, there’s this rush—a mighty wind of hands, instructions, encouraging words, heightened speech, and amplified energy—all to prepare for and to welcome this fresh human being into the world. If possible, the newborn is brought close to the mother, skin to skin, to regulate her body temperature and to encourage bonding, which helps in breastfeeding.

This is my body.

Keep watching and you’ll see that mother and baby coo at each other, cry tears of joy and relief at each other. They touch and start getting to know one another.

It takes a couple minutes before a newborn begins to use language. She’ll begin by licking the air, stick her little pink tongue out and pull it back in, open her mouth and then look for her hands and bring them to her mouth.

“I am the bread of life,” Jesus said.

The search is a steady and relentless one. Her head bobs, hands grab, tongue licks, and then a bit of grunting or fussing. In cases where moms need extra medical attention, a baby will often be placed with her shirtless father to share the positive effects of skin-to-skin contact with a parent. Even then she’s searching, and sometimes finds a nipple—a dad nipple!

This is my body which is given for you; do this in remembrance.

You see, babies know. They seem to have this ability to remember that the greatest gift to them is the body. Even when they are born, they long to return to the body that has been broken open for them, that will feed them, hold them, nurture and love them.

Before they even have the fullness of memory, I like to believe that babies have shared words with Jesus. That Christ said, “Remember me, baby, remember me. I love you.”

So, for many of us who have heard this regular reminder to remember, we do just that.

We remember the unique needs of maternal and child nutrition. We remember that food is the first thing we long for, that it sustains the body. Without it, we are most fragile. We remember that our work at Bread for the World, in its many forms, is so critical to feeding babies, mothers, and fathers.

Christ gave us his body that we might remember. Let us give thanks for this life-giving gift.

Kierra Jackson is major gifts coordinator at Bread for the World. She is also a trained birth doula.

Celebrating 5th Birthdays and Beyond

DB at 6 cowboy shirt 1954 (3)
Bread for the World President David Beckmann, at approximately age 5. To see the complete #5thbday photo gallery, visit 5thbdayandbeyond.org. (Photo courtesy of David Beckmann)

By Beth Ann Saracco

If you are on Facebook, and follow Bread for the World President David Beckmann, you may have noticed he recently updated his profile picture to a photo of himself as a young boy. The change commemorates the 5th Birthday and Beyond celebration, which recognizes the significant progress that has been achieved in child survival over the past 25 years, and the many contributions the United States has made in reaching this milestone.

Thanks in large part to bipartisan support from members of Congress, current and past U.S. administrations, private-sector partners, nongovernmental organizations (including Bread for the World), and other multilateral organizations and donor nations, the number of deaths of children under five has dropped by half since 1990. In the past twelve years alone, 700,000 fewer children have died from pneumonia, 300,000 fewer children from malaria, and 100,000 fewer children from AIDS.

As we celebrate these significant gains, we also reflect on the role Bread for the World has played, throughout its own 40-year history, to significantly improve child survival. In the last 25 years alone, Bread for the World has helped craft and pass major legislation that has reduced child mortality, including a bill that established the international Child Survival Fund. Each year, this fund helps immunize more than 100 million children in the developing world; since its establishment, the number of children dying daily from malnutrition and preventable diseases has fallen by 50 percent.  

In 1999, Bread for the World led the creation of the Jubilee Campaign, which was part of a worldwide movement that successfully urged Congress to forgive the debts of some of the world’s poorest countries. As a result, relief has reduced the debts of 36 of the world’s poorest countries by 90 percent. Many of these countries have been able to reinvest and expand basic education and health services.

In the new millennium, Bread for the World and its partners successfully advocated for the establishment of the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), which provided a new, innovative way of administering U.S. foreign aid. Through its unique approach focused on good governance, accountability, and poverty reduction, MCC has supported nearly 40 countries with more than $8.5 billion in aid, ranging from food-security programs and health initiatives to water and sanitation projects.

Most recently, thanks in part to analysis from Bread for the World Institute, we are pushing to improve the nutritional quality of U.S. food aid. In addition, through the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Civil Society Network, which supports civil society alliances at the country level, we are learning about the opportunities and challenges of scaling up nutrition in some of the countries most affected by malnutrition. This is helping inform our advocacy and our push for greater investments in maternal and child nutrition programs.

Working with a number of U.S. civil society partners, our advocacy efforts helped encourage and shape the U.S. Agency for International Development’s new nutrition strategy, which will better integrate and coordinate nutrition and nutrition-related programs across U.S. development assistance programs. Since we know the many links that exist between child survival and the right nutrition and care during the 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and her child’s second birthday, these efforts will translate into even more mothers and children living longer, healthier, more productive lives.

Proudly, Bread for the World joins with other partners in recognizing the 5th Birthday and Beyond celebration, and extends particular gratitude to Congress and the administration for their continued support of vital programs that promote child survival and wellbeing. Together, we are working to ensure that all children not only survive to their fifth birthdays, but thrive well beyond them.

Beth Ann Saracco is an international policy analyst at Bread for the World.

Bread Helps Win Important Nutrition Victories

Lead story home
Dabora Nyibol prepares sorghum for her family at her home in South Sudan. A new nutrition strategy for the U.S. Agency for International Development will help ensure that people like Nyibol in poor countries will receive better nutrition from the assistance they receive from U.S. food-aid programs. (Stephen H. Padre)

May was a good month for nutrition.

At the Chicago Council Global Food Security 2014 event May 22 in Washington, D.C., National Security Advisor Susan Rice delivered on a promise by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to launch the agency's first-ever global nutrition strategy. The release of the strategy came just one year after being announced at an event cohosted by Bread for the World and Concern Worldwide.

Bread has been an active participant in the development of the strategy, along with other institutions that share a concern over nutrition, including advocacy and operational partners of USAID.

Improving maternal and child nutrition has been a major part of Bread's non-legislative advocacy efforts for the past three years. The USAID strategy comes after Bread’s successful efforts to clarify exactly where nutrition programs are funded within the federal budget, to persuade the administration to identify a high-level spokesperson for nutrition in the U.S. government (USAID administrator Raj Shah was named), and to help win needed reforms in U.S. food aid policies and programs. Also, the 2014 farm bill authorized changes that will increase the efficiency of food-aid programs and delivery, allow greater flexibility to purchase food for distribution closer to where it is needed, and provide additional options for using new specialized food products that have been fortified with vitamins and minerals.

"The fact that USAID has developed an agency-wide nutrition strategy is another sign of U.S. leadership in efforts to scale up maternal and child nutrition globally," said Asma Lateef, director of Bread for the World Institute. “It reflects a strong commitment to augment the effectiveness of its programs, especially those in the Feed the Future Initiative, and to hold itself accountable to improving nutrition, particularly in the critical 1,000-day window of opportunity between pregnancy and age 2."

Feed the Future is the U.S. government’s global hunger and food-security initiative that connects federal government agencies and departments that have hunger-related programs and the 19 partner countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America and the Caribbean that are in the initiative.

According to the strategy, undernutrition contributed to 3.1 million (45 percent of all) preventable child deaths in 2011. That same year, stunting impacted more than 165 million people worldwide—including 52 million children under five. The USAID nutrition strategy recognizes the essential role that nutrition plays in human development and the devastating personal, social, and economic impacts of chronic malnutrition on an individual, a community, and a country.

The strategy will support commitments the United States made as part of the Global Nutrition for Growth Compact agreed at last year’s Nutrition for Growth Summit, including reaching 500 million pregnant women and children under two by 2020; averting 20 million additional cases of stunting by 2020 (a World Health Assembly milestone); and preventing 1.7 million deaths by 2020 through efforts to reduce stunting, increase breastfeeding, improve zinc supplementation, and boost coverage of treatment of severe acute malnutrition.

"In the year since announcing the strategy, USAID has engaged a broad set of stakeholders, resulting in a stronger finished product and more effective, efficient implementation," added Lateef. "This has also laid the groundwork for the forthcoming 'whole-of-government' plan from the Obama administration. We look forward to continued cross-agency coordination to help improve nutritional outcomes for women and children around the world."

[This article originally appeared in the June edition of Bread for the World's e-newsletter.]

Nutritional Guidance from...Lobbyists?

'Potatoes' photo (c) 2011, jamonation - license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Let's pretend, for a moment, that you're the parent of a two-year-old, and you want to make sure you're buying your toddler the most nutritious food possible, so she will grow healthy and strong. You're looking for advice. Whom would you turn to? Maybe a doctor? A nutritionist? Or a lobbyist?

Most people would pick the doctor or nutritionist, but it seems that some members of Congress would be inclined to go with the lobbyist.

Members of the Senate Appropriations Committee are currently embroiled in a debate about the nutritional value of one of America's favorite foods—the white potato.

Potato growers have recently voiced outrage over the exclusion of the white potato from the approved list of food that can be bought with Women Infants and Children (WIC) nutrition program benefits. WIC provides healthy food to pregnant women and young children, allowing families to buy certain items deemed nutritious by scientists at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Milk and fruit are on the list, as are vegetables—save for white potatoes. USDA guidelines exclude white potatoes from WIC because, according to its dietary data, no Americans, rich or poor, are eating too few white potatoes in any form—in fact, we are eating too many. Potato growers maintain, as anyone with a financial stake in selling more potatoes might do, that white spuds are a nutritional powerhouse that should be available to WIC beneficiaries. 

Today, members of the Senate Appropriations Committee sided with potato growers, voting during its agriculture appropriations committee markup process to examine the issue more closely but, in the meantime, add white potatoes to the list of approved WIC foods.

Allowing a powerful special interest to have any say in determining guidelines for federal child nutrition programs sets a dangerous precedent. The move opens the door for lobbyists and special interests to begin promoting their foods. Luckily, there is still time to fix it! You can still contact your senators and tell them that the WIC foods program must address the nutritional needs of children, not the interests of the most powerful lobbies.

New York Times food writer Mark Bittman has written a piece on the potato battle, and what seems to be a trend toward members of Congress throwing science out the window and considering the profits and needs of special interests, to the detriment of children. It doesn't stop with Congress caving to the demands of potato growers—a recent House bill proposed allowing schools to ignore healthy eating guidelines for school lunches if they find that ridding their cafeterias of junk means they're making less money from food sales.

This week, a large group of national, state, and local organizations penned a sign-on letter to Congress, asking them to continue to let science-based decisions govern federal nutrition programs, whether deciding what foods can be purchased with WIC benefits, or what nutritional guidelines school lunches should follow. Hopefully, members of Congress will realize that science, not special interests, should be determining what is considered the most nutritious food for growing children.

Working to End Maternal and Child Hunger Year-round

Mother_daughterBy Kristen Youngblood Archer

“I fall, I stand still… I trudge on. I gain a little… I get more eager and climb higher and begin to see the widening horizon. Every struggle is a victory.” – Helen Keller

Today is March 31, the official end to National Women’s History Month. Like so many other months that have been assigned an issue of national or international importance, this month was dedicated in the late 1970s, around International Women’s Day, for the purpose of celebrating the achievements and contributions women have made to society, science, government, and our world at large.

The trouble with these months is that, well, they end. Once they’re over, we’re on to the next month or issue, and have forgotten all of the great things we learned, celebrated, and promised to do in the month prior.

At Bread for the World, we like to look at these important months as a time not only to celebrate, but to reflect on what has been done among specific communities of people to end hunger, and what more there is to accomplish. While these designated months (African-American History Month, Older Americans Month, Hispanic Heritage Month) serve as official rallying cries, we must pursue relevant issues and challenges throughout the year if we are to effect lasting change.

While Women’s History Month ends today, poverty, malnutrition, and hunger among women and children around the world continues. There’s still work to do.

With this in mind, Bread for the World has just completed two new “Hunger by the Numbers’ analyses on women and children.

The international analysis takes a look at the important role women play in development and ending hunger worldwide, particularly with regards to nutrition in the first 1,000 days from a woman’s pregnancy to her child’s second birthday. The domestic analysis highlights some key issues brought to light in the 2014 Hunger Report, Ending Hunger in America. From wages to childcare, this document evaluates some of the main factors that contribute to the hardships of workers in the United States.

We hope these analyses will not only provide valuable information, but that they will encourage us to keep working to end hunger among women and children all year long.

Kristen Youngblood Archer is Bread for the World's media relations manager.

Photo: A mother and daughter in Nicaragua shell peas from their garden. (Margaret W. Nea)

Today: Congressional Hearing on 1,000 Days


Children at the Nutrition Rehabilitation Home in Dhangadhi, Nepal, receive their 4 a.m. milk feeding on Monday, April 30, 2102. This Nutrition Rehabilitation Home in Dhangadhi, Nepal, in the western part of the country, is run by RUWDUC (Rural Women's Development Unity Corporation), a Nepali NGO. The Dhangadhi facility serves up to 10 malnourished children at a time for up to 60 days; mothers stay with their child. All services are free. (Laura Elizabeth Pohl/Bread for the World)

By Beth Ann Saracco

Thanks to a growing body of research, and the advocacy efforts of Bread for the World members and others throughout the world, Congress is beginning to recognize the importance of global maternal and child nutrition. Our legislators are paying particular attention to nutrition during the critical 1,000-day window from the start of a woman’s pregnancy through her child’s second birthday.

Last year, funding for global nutrition efforts were increased to $115 million, up from the previous year’s funding level of $95 million. That’s nearly a 22 percent increase in funding. Congress is starting to get it. And for good reason— every $1 invested in nutrition generates as much as $138 in better health and increased productivity.

And today, in the House of Representatives, the Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Africa, Global Health, Global Human Rights, and International Organizations is holding a hearing, “The First One Thousand Days: Development Aid Programs to Bolster Health and Nutrition.” The subcommittee’s chairman, Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ-4),  and ranking member, Karen Bass (D-CA-37), are holding this hearing to learn more about the health and nutritional needs of women and children during the 1,000-day period. The hearing will also address the role of faith-based organizations in partnering with governments and other non-governmental organizations to promote the 1,000 Days movement, and adequate maternal and child nutrition.

Be sure to tune into the hearing at 3 p.m. ET,  on Tuesday, March25,  to hear testimony from witnesses who have seen firsthand the importance of maternal and child health and nutrition during the first 1,000 Days. Tweet at Rep. Chris Smith (@RepChrisSmith) and Ranking Member Bass (@RepKarenBass), and thank them for their interest in this important issue and for holding this hearing. 

To learn more about the growing 1,000 Days movement, and to become part of the momentum, download Bread for the World's 1,000 Days toolkit. You can also visit Bread for the World’s 1,000 Days Movement page and “like” the Women of Faith for the 1,000 Days Movement Facebook page to receive the latest updates. 

Beth Ann Saracco is an international policy analyst at Bread for the World.

Breaking the HIV-Hunger Trap

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Around the world, more than 400 million children live in extreme poverty and many suffer from malnutrition and illness. In countries hit hardest by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, this combination can be fatal. (Mariella Furrer/Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation)

This article originally appeared on the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation blog.

By Chelsea Bailey

Around the world, more than 400 million children are living in extreme poverty. Subsisting on less than U.S. $1.25 a day, these children are often plagued by malnutrition and illness. In countries hit hardest by the HIV/AIDS epidemic, that combination can be fatal.

HIV has often been referred to as the “wasting disease,” because, if  left untreated, the virus wreaks havoc on the immune system, leaving the person emaciated  and making exposure to even the most common infections deadly. Similarly, prolonged hunger and malnutrition deprive the body of essential nutrients that support the immune system, making it that much more difficult for the  body to properly defend itself against infections.

When given the choice between being able to afford food or antiretroviral medications (ARVs), many choose to have food in their stomach. Nutritionists at the World Food Programme (WFP) have dubbed this cycle the “HIV- Hunger Trap.” 

But it is possible to break the cycle. In Lesotho, many children suffer the dual challenge of living with HIV and coping with hunger. Recognizing this, the Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation (EGPAF) integrates nutrition programs into all maternal, neonatal, and child health services in EGPAF-supported hospitals and health centers.

These “Nutrition Corners” are designed to improve the growth, development, and overall health of HIV-positive and HIV-exposed children.

Undernourished children do not receive enough food to lead healthy and active lives, if this condition progresses it can lead to malnutrition, a physical state that makes it difficult for the body to resist disease.

Mothers and caregivers enrolled in Nutrition Corners can attend cooking demonstrations to learn about healthy eating and food preparation using locally available fare, such as sorghum porridge, beans, peas, vegetables, and fruits. Nutrition Corners also help EGPAF identify HIV-exposed children who are still breastfeeding and HIV-positive children who are younger than 2, so they can receive optimal support for HIV prevention, care, and treatment.

Monthly growth monitoring sessions identify undernourished children with low weight-for-age and weight-for-height. Mothers, caregivers, and children with unknown HIV statuses receive HIV counseling and testing services.

Caregivers and parents whose children do not nutritionally improve in three consecutive visits are given one-on-one counseling—while the parents and caregivers who have seen improvements are invited to talk to the entire group about their positive experiences.

The Nutrition Corners are part of the larger effort by EGPAF and the  Partnership for HIV-Free Survival (PHFS) program to reduce malnutrition in Lesotho, especially among HIV-positive women and HIV-positive children. PHFS is funded by the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and the U.S. President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR). [Editor's note: Bread for the World advocated, and continues to advocate for PEPFAR and also supported the PEPFAR Stewardship and Oversight Act of 2013. which extended important provisions and reporting requirements that will help strengthen the program.]

We will not be able to see the end of pediatric HIV/AIDS without strong and sustainable health systems. Integrating nutrition programs into maternal, neonatal, and child health services brings us one step closer to ensuring a viable and efficient health system that not only eliminates pediatric AIDS, but also improves the overall health of women, children, and their families.

Chelsea Bailey is media relations coordinator at Elizabeth Glaser Pediatric AIDS Foundation.

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