Despite having the trappings of the end of humanity, the global COVID-19 pandemic came and gradually went. However, another global menace – child hunger and malnutrition – remains seemingly insurmountable. According to the United Nations, nearly 149 million children worldwide under five years are stunted (too short for their age) due to chronic malnutrition. It further noted that this was the leading cause of mortality among children, with approximately 45% of all child deaths globally attributed to malnutrition.
The World Food Programme, in January 2023 revealed that the 15 worst-hit countries – Afghanistan, Burkina Faso, Chad, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Ethiopia, Haiti, Kenya, Madagascar, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen – accounted for about 30 million acutely malnourished children.
Addressing child hunger and malnutrition is a key component of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). SDG 2 aims to end hunger, achieve food security, improve nutrition, and promote sustainable agriculture. For the most part, this has seen global cooperation, coordination and interventions by governments, and international organizations, led by the UN, UNICEF, World Food Programme (WFP), and World Health Organization (WHO), in achieving these objectives.
Civil societies, individuals and the private sector have played their part too, unfortunately, these have not been enough as millions of children around the world still suffer inadequate access to food resulting in malnutrition and the attendant consequences. As Nigerian-born Franca Adetunji, the Progenitor of End African Children Hunger Foundation USA., puts it, “Due to the multiplicity of the causes, this problem cannot be left to just the international organizations and to government; tackling child hunger is a responsibility everybody needs to get involved with.”
Drawing from over 10 years of experience as a Principal Operations Analyst for a Food Service program, Adetunji has gained a deep understanding of the complex issues surrounding child hunger. Speaking from her base in Phoenix, Arizona, she explained that a combination of several factors including inadequate access to nutritious food, poverty and economic disparities, poor maternal care practices, as well as certain environmental factors was responsible for the sustained menace of child hunger, especially in Africa.
Adetunji also noted that “because the causes and impact of malnutrition can vary across different countries and regions, addressing malnutrition requires a multi-faceted approach that involves interventions by various bodies at various levels.” As a result, through her ‘End African Children Hunger Foundation’, she has engaged in partnerships and collaborated with key stakeholders to support the fight against child hunger in Africa, notably in Nigeria.
She enumerated measures such as improving food security, promoting sustainable agriculture, enhancing healthcare services, educating communities about nutrition, and addressing poverty and inequality as sustainable solutions to this problem. She called on well-meaning individuals and organizations to join this very worthy humanitarian cause towards a hunger-free future – that no child may go to bed hungry.