Estimates indicate that 925 million people – more than one in every seven worldwide – are undernourished, and 98 percent live in the developing world. Malnutrition develops when the body does not have the correct amounts of certain key vitamins, minerals, and nutrients to maintain organ function and healthy tissues. In areas affected by drought or other natural disasters, food supplies may be extremely limited, and increases in the number of malnourished individuals may be seen. By exploring new farming techniques and working to ensure that aid is provided in the affected nations, it may be possible to reduce rates of malnutrition.
Two-thirds of malnourished individuals are concentrated in seven countries: Bangladesh, China, the Democratic Republic of Congo, Ethiopia, India, Indonesia, and Pakistan. Other nations, particularly those in regions affected by drought, are also facing massive food shortages and increasing rates of malnutrition. In the Horn of Africa, a reported 10 million people including children and people with disabilities have been affected by the recent drought in this region – the most severe drought in the area in the past 60 years, which has interrupted food production. UN reports show that those who currently do not have access to a reliable source of food include an estimated 3.2 million people in Ethiopia, 3.5 million in Kenya, 2.5 million in Somalia, 600,000 residents of north-eastern Uganda, and 120,000 individuals in Djibouti.
Children are at a particularly high risk of becoming malnourished. World Health Organization estimates indicate that malnutrition contributes to more than one-third of all child deaths worldwide and the United Nations Children’s Fund approximates that 480,000 children in Somalia, Kenya, and Ethiopia will be severely malnourished this year – a 50 percent increase over last year’s figure. Mark Bowden, the UN humanitarian coordinator for Somalia, notes that the nation is currently facing “the highest rate of malnutrition in the whole of Africa, [and] more than 30 percent of children are suffering from global acute malnutrition.” Many malnourished children can be treated through the administration of calorie-dense, nutrient-rich foods including Ready-to-use Therapeutic Food (RUTF). Though RUTF is still not available in some regions, it based on peanut butter and dried skimmed milk and provides sufficient nutrient intake for complete recovery from malnutrition, and can be stored for three to four months without refrigeration, even at tropical temperatures.
According to UN reports, world food production will need to increase by up to 100 percent by 2050 in order to sustain 9 billion people, the expected global population. In addition to utilizing sustainable farming techniques, some experts have suggested the introduction of “super wheat” – a crop that is more resistant to some types of fungus that can destroy crops. Further exploration of crop options and sustainable farming techniques could help to expand the food supply and help to reduce global rates of malnutrition.