Speaking Tuesday at CARE’s 2010 National Conference, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged action to fight child hunger and malnutrition. Clinton emphasized the importance of nutrition for the youngest of children and the severe consequences of hunger.
The negative domino effect from poor nutrition is immense. Clinton described how crucial the first 1000 days are in preventing malnutrition from taking hold.
Clinton said, “One in three children worldwide suffers from under-nutrition. In some countries, half of all children are stunted, which impedes their brain development and causes lifelong health and learning problems.”
Clinton’s speech comes at a time when more than 1 billion people are suffering from hunger, the highest number in history. The fight against hunger needs to be at the top of the administration’s agenda.
President Obama has put forth the Feed the Future Initiative to improve agricultural production abroad. Before this program can get off the ground, the food crisis in a number of countries needs to be stabilized.
Yemen is one of the countries where funding shortfalls are threatening the existence of food programs, including those for the youngest children. It is in Yemen that the U.S. resolve to fight hunger will be severely tested, as this country is a high national security priority.
Right now in Yemen, the UN World Food Programme (WFP) is being forced to cut rations for people displaced by the conflict in the northern part of the country. Other food aid programs have already been cut, including school feeding for children.
This Food for Education program, along with infant feeding programs, is vital for development in Yemen, and needs to have full funding restored.
This month, the State Department is scheduled to open a new office solely dedicated to global hunger issues. It’s not clear yet what day the opening of this office will take place. There are also discussions in Congress about passing the Global Food Security Act. Interaction reports that this bill “creates the necessary infrastructure for sustaining the Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative, instituting the necessary pieces for a coordinated inter-agency effort that draws on the strengths of private actors such as NGOs, private voluntary organizations, international organizations, multilateral institutions, and cooperatives.”
Coordinated leadership in the fight against hunger is needed quickly to meet current emergencies, such as Yemen, Sudan and other countries facing shortages.
As George Marshall said, while Congress debated the European recovery after World War II, “The patient is sinking while the doctors deliberate.” It’s time for the U.S. to gets its leadership in place to meet the current hunger crisis, before it’s too late for some of these countries.
Improved coordination at home can also enhance international cooperation that is so desperately needed to win the struggle against global hunger.
Video of child nutrition programs in Yemen. These child feeding programs are at risk because of low funding for the World Food Programme in Yemen.