McConnell, help save children's lives by investing more in global nutrition
As we just celebrated National Nutrition Awareness Month in March, and with the first signs of spring produce throughout the commonwealth, we are reminded that 1 out of every 3 people is malnourished worldwide.
Whether from a lack of access to healthy food choices or limited food supplies altogether, the global nutrition crisis is as widespread as it is severe.
As the global outreach pastor at Northeast Christian Church, I am all too familiar with global hunger. I spent much of my formative years in Haiti’s rural Northwest zone where dried mud patties are routinely made, sold and eaten as a temporary solution to hunger pangs.
More recently, I traveled to countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America, South Asia and Southeast Asia, where food insecurity is some of the worst in the world. Hunger is, of course, a very real problem here at home too.
Kentucky consistently has one of the highest percentages of hungry households in the U.S. In fact, just last week, our church led efforts to feed hungry families in Jefferson County while schools were closed for the “sickout.”
That said, the data is clear – the developing world faces malnutrition on an incomparable scale.
The good news is that we know how to address hunger-related issues; in fact, global hunger has successfully been reduced by more than 50 percent, from 23.3 percent in 1990 to 11 percent in 2017.
Furthermore, the number of stunted children (a lifelong deficiency caused by poor childhood nutrition that affects physical growth and cognitive development) has decreased by 9 percent globally, from 165.2 million in 2012 to 150.8 million in 2017.
Despite these tremendous strides, the bad news is that the need has increased in recent years. A rise in conflict and global warming in the last three years has elevated worldwide food insecurity.
Four famines currently plague the globe in Nigeria, Somalia, Yemen and South Sudan, leaving 20 million lives at risk in these countries alone. Despite this rise in global hunger, the U.S. has disproportionately funded global nutrition compared to other areas of global health, spending only 1 percent of our global health funding on nutrition interventions.
Nearly a quarter of the world's children under the age of 5 suffer from undernutrition, and malnutrition is the cause of nearly half of all childhood deaths (that’s roughly 3 million children each year).
In fact, every year, undernutrition kills more children than malaria, tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS combined. It goes without saying that this should not be happening, especially considering we know how to prevent these devastating effects.
Here in Kentucky, we are uniquely situated to impact this issue. As a leader on the Appropriations Committee, Sen. Mitch McConnell has the opportunity to reduce global hunger by supporting the U.S. investment in global nutrition through the global health account.
Through USAID, this funding prevented hunger and improved nutrition for more than 22 million children in 2017 alone. This funding is allocated specifically for mothers and children, particularly in the first 1,000 days of life — from conception to age 2 — where the timing is most crucial to combat stunting and undernutrition.
Last month, advocates for global nutrition were thrilled to see Congress increase this account by $20 million for FY19, accelerating the progress toward meeting global targets on stunting, breastfeeding, anemia and wasting.
That said, we could prevent the deaths of an additional 3.7 million children over the next 10 years by investing even further in global nutrition programs. In an effort to achieve this, we are requesting $250 million for global nutrition in the FY20 budget (a $105 million increase).
As a Christian, I believe in Jesus’ command to feed the hungry.
I also believe God calls each of us to leverage whatever privilege we have to influence the world around us. Yes, we should pray, donate and volunteer to help those in need, but we should also advocate on behalf of issues related to our faith.
Advocacy — using our collective voice to uplift the poor and address hunger — is a powerful way to demonstrate our faith, promote change and do good. U.S. funding for global nutrition is indispensable in the continued effort to end world hunger, and for those of us who strive to uphold the biblical mandate to spread The Gospel, let us begin by offering “The Good News” of a warm meal to a hungry world.
Josh Rouse is global outreach pastor at Northeast Christian Church in Louisville.
This article originally appeared at https://www.courier-journal.com/story/opinion/2019/04/10/mcconnell-invest-global-nutrition-save-childrens-lives/3422217002/.