The world is experiencing an overwhelming hunger epidemic made worse by the global COVID-19 pandemic. And while hunger impacts people of all ages, it devastates our most vulnerable population: children.
According to UNICEF, nearly half of all deaths in children under 5 are due to undernutrition. This global crisis is too large of a problem for any one segment of society to tackle and requires the combined efforts of government, nonprofit organizations and the business community.
For decades, governments have worked independently to tackle the challenge from abroad. Nongovernmental organizations worked on shoestring budgets to help ensure food shipments were delivered and distributed, but even their efforts were consistently disrupted due to supply chain problems, corruption and government inefficiencies.
As global leaders in nutrition at Herbalife Nutrition, we are committed to doing our part to make sure no child goes without a meal, because we know how critical it is that children receive proper nutrition. The impact of hunger on children can have consequences that last a lifetime, as food insecurity is associated with delayed development in young children, behavioral problems, risk of chronic illnesses and lower academic achievement. The situation is exacerbated by the present pandemic, as the deteriorating economy has led to greater rates of unemployment and to the shuttering of schools and school meal programs.
This year will add as many as 132 million more people to the world’s food insecure population. In the United States, families with children — often woman-headed, single-parent households — are most likely to miss rent payments, lack funds for food and face unemployment. Food banks are struggling to fill the void and the demand far outstrips the supply.
Across the globe, children often get their meals at school because they do not have access to sufficient food at their homes. The World Food Program says 66 million primary school-age children attend classes hungry across the developing world, which significantly impacts their ability to learn. Meals and snacks from schools are estimated to satisfy as much as two-thirds of children’s daily nutritional needs.
This is our reality. But we don’t need to accept it. We can’t accept it.
With the number of hungry children growing each day, companies, nonprofits and governments must rise to meet this incredible challenge. Solutions are critical, and include the need to promote access and behaviors for sustainable healthy diets and addressing how to adapt global food systems to meet these needs. At Herbalife, we work with nonprofits globally to support critical programs that bridge the vast and growing food divide and raise awareness for how companies and consumers can help provide children and families access to the healthy food they need to thrive.
Our Nutrition for Zero Hunger initiative is part of the solution, and our global commitments are poised to make a significant impact more than ever before. We are working alongside leading nonprofit partners such as Feed the Children and The Hunger Project — who are recognized for their impact in addressing world hunger — as well as the National Hispanic Council on Aging and local Los Angeles organization Chrysalis, collectively supporting more than 114 million people in over 120 countries worldwide.
Through these partnerships, Nutrition for Zero Hunger has made nearly 700,000 nutritious meals available to children and families, delivered more than 500,000 servings of donated products and 3,500 pounds of food to families in need, helped provide close to 48,000 women with breastfeeding and nutrition education, and supplied 40,0000 children with essential dietary supplements to reduce nutrient deficiency and support their development. Ongoing collaboration with nonprofit partners emphasizes our leadership in nutrition, not only through our financial contributions but also through our expertise in sourcing, delivery and sustainability.
Hunger is a critical health challenge made worse by the global pandemic. Now more than ever, the world needs to unite to do its part to support vulnerable populations and eradicate hunger.
It can be done. It simply needs the combined effort and knowledge of us all.
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Commentary: Tackling the Twin Crises of Childhood Hunger and COVID-19 originally appeared on usnews.com