Our Sustainable Futures campaign explores the values of Doctors Worldwide - integrity, collaboration, and clinical excellence - and how they are embedded in all of the work we do to ensure long-term, sustainable solutions to healthcare challenges. Today, we explore the devastating health consequences of food insecurity, and how climate change is increasing the risk of malnutrition and hunger for vulnerable communities.
In recent years, the issue of global hunger has become an increasingly pressing concern; more than 820 million people worldwide currently suffer from chronic hunger, with many more facing food insecurity or malnutrition. According to a recent UN report, there has been an increase of 150 million people affected by hunger since COVID-19, providing additional evidence that we are moving further away from the Sustainable Development Goal of ending hunger, achieving food security, improved nutrition, and promoting sustainable agriculture across the globe (SDG 2: Zero Hunger).
What is food insecurity?
Food insecurity is a global issue that affects millions of people worldwide. According to the World Food Programme, over 690 million people go hungry every day, a number, as highlighted, that has only increased since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. The term refers to the lack of access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious foods that are needed to meet the dietary needs of an individual or household, and is caused by a variety of factors such as poverty, climate change, conflict, and economic instability.
Food insecurity can often lead to malnutrition, which can have serious long-term consequences on physical and cognitive development. It can also lead to a host of health problems, including chronic diseases such as lung and heart disease, as food is a major determinant of health. Many children and adults suffer from mineral and vitamin deficiencies, such as chronic anaemia, blindness, rickets and immune problems as a result. For those without access to regular and nutritious meals, the already weaker body now becomes more susceptible to picking up new illnesses and infections which become more prolonged, leading to a greater threat to life.
*A determinant of health is any factor that influences an individual's health status. These determinants can be either social, economic or environmental.
Severe malnutrition is the most life threatening condition that is caused by hunger. One child dies every 13 seconds from hunger or a hunger related disease (Action Against Hunger). If left untreated, over time malnutrition can result in stunting, making them physically smaller than their age. The consequences of malnutrition sadly extend further, with children’s brain development being compromised. Coupled with chronic fatigue, this leads to children underperforming at school and further on into their adult lives. Combined with an increase in physical illnesses, poor nutrition therefore plays a pivotal role in creating and maintaining the poverty cycle.
The impact of climate change on global hunger
Climate change is one of the biggest challenges facing our planet today, with far-reaching effects that impact every aspect of our daily lives, holding predominant influence over the lives and futures of already vulnerable communities, including their access to food.
- Weather patterns: Extreme weather events, such as droughts, floods, and hurricanes, are becoming more frequent and severe. These events destroy crops, damage infrastructure, and disrupt food supply chains, leading to food shortages and price increases.
- Farming conditions: Changes in temperature, rainfall, and humidity make it difficult for farmers to grow crops, leading to lower yields and lower quality crops. This impacts food supplies and increases the risk of malnutrition.
- Water: As the earth's climate continues to change, many regions are experiencing water shortages, making it difficult for farmers to irrigate their crops and maintain their yields, and has become an increasing source of regional conflicts.
- Food prices & access: As food supplies become more scarce, prices increase, making it difficult for many people to afford nutritious food.
How you can make a difference
With an estimated 14 million children under the age of 5 suffering from severe acute malnutrition and shockingly only less than 25% able to access life saving treatment, Doctors Worldwide is committed to ensuring that we are able to help as many children and adults as possible access lifesaving treatment such as nutrition to save lives.
Our Nutrition Programme exists across a number of the countries where we are currently undertaking medical projects, to ensure life-saving nutrition and treatment is accessible to all. Your donations therefore make a significant impact in ensuring the vulnerable individuals we serve have access to food and support.
> In Rwanda, we are working with one of the main clinics in Kigali to provide one litre of milk every day to all the babies, children and adults that are clinically diagnosed with malnutrition. £40 provides one month of life-saving milk for a severely malnourished baby.
> In Pakistan, we provide food for 100+ people per day at the DWW Hospital for the most vulnerable patients, as well as widows, children and families living in dire poverty in the local community. With a massive 1+ million Afghan refugee population in the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and the Hospital being close to the borders of Afghanistan and Kashmir, the canteen is a lifeline for local Pakistanis and refugees. £15 provides one month of food for an individual in need.
Support our work today: https://doctorsworldwide.org/donate