In the developed world most people have no idea what stunting is. It is a health problem we do not have to worry about because access to nutritious and fortified foods is largely available in our supermarkets and restaurants and ultimately our kitchens. For us, the stark opposite of stunting for our children is our major dilemma. In developing countries, however, stunting is an everyday part of life for many.
It is a cultural challenge. You will go to communities where food is available, but it is not given to the children. These foods are there, but you will find women are making maize porridge and giving it to children. Food is available in the communities. It is a question of knowledge. Geoffrey Kirenga, CEO of the Southern Agricultural Growth Corridor of Tanzania
In Tanzania, forty-four percent of all children are stunted according to numbers released by the World Bank. Feed the Future says the number is slightly lower at 42 percent. This number is “highly unacceptable” says Obey N. Assery, the Director of the Department of Coordination of Government Business. Stunting occurs, of course, when children do not receive adequate nutrition for proper growth. Surprisingly, adequate nutrition for children begins in the womb during the first 1000 days before birth through a child’s second birthday. That means mothers play a pivotal role in ensuring the proper growth of their children even before they are born which makes decreasing the stunting rate in Tanzania more difficult to manage.
I feel overwhelming gratitude for the many mothers in my life – the mother that raised me, the mother that raised my fabulous husband, the mother of my three children created thru egg donation and the Korean and Chinese mothers that gave birth to my daughters and then made the difficult decision to place them for adoption. I have always imagined what their life would have been if, instead of completing reams of paperwork and writing checks for large sums of money, we had worked to provide for their original families so that they would have been able to be raised in their country of origin. That venture is much more difficult and involves a more long-term world view than a short-term individualistic approach. But that is exactly what the founders of Second Mile Haiti are trying to achieve. We were fortunate to spend a few hours touring their expanding facility on our last day in Haiti.
The founders of Second Mile Haiti are Jenn Schenk and Amy Syres, two young women who had a vision to create a sustainable option for families who were previously relinquishing their malnourished children to care centers, where the children were either placed for international adoption or reunified back into their impoverished families after their malnutrition was corrected. It didn’t seem right that the only available way to help these families was to take their kids from them. We really had to ask ourselves if there wasn’t some sort of alternative” says Amy, regarding the experiences that led the co-founders to start Second Mile Haiti.
Currently 805 million people are undernourished worldwide. That number is based on a number of factors including chronic and systemic poverty, a lack of access to improved growing methods and resources for small-holder farmers, a lack of purchasing power, as well as a lack of highly nutritious foods.
Researchers believe forests can help remedy the hunger problem worldwide. Even though 61.3 percent of the world’s forests are wholly owned by individual governments, that is a sharp decline from 71.4 percent in 2002 according to the newly-released report, Forests, Trees and Landscapes for Food Security and Nutrition [PDF].
Over 60 forest scientists contributed to the new report which outlines the best ways in which available forestland can be utilized to curb hunger. The first way is via tree crops that are often rich in vitamins, proteins, and other nutrients and are associated with more diverse diets. Examples include cashews and the African locust bean.