The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States has been unlike anything most of us have seen in our lifetimes. Conditions such as stay-at-home orders, wearing masks in public and the highest unemployment rate since the Great Depression affect all of us in different ways.
The One Health concept calls for a worldwide approach to expanding interdisciplinary collaboration and communication on all aspects of health for humans, animals and the environment. This approach has tremendous implications for human health because an estimated sixty-one percent of human infectious diseases originate from animals. At the same time, there is a growing sense of urgency to advance One Health collaborations before more ground is lost in the fight for a healthy planet.
Food insecurity is on the rise again. Driven by conflict, the consequences of famine and food insecurity are a central feature of today’s humanitarian crises and complex emergencies.
In this episode, I talk with Matt Nims, the acting director of Food for Peace at the U.S. Agency for International Development. We discuss the impact of food insecurity on affected populations, the challenges in responding and the promising approaches that can mitigate the severity of a food security crisis.
Drought is threatening livelihoods in the Horn of Africa and is increasing the vulnerability of households to food insecurity, economic shocks and resource-based conflicts. Approximately 12 million people in the region are expected to need food aid in the coming months. A response that protects household assets and helps people grow their own food and minimize livestock losses is critical to their survival.
Timely interventions, such as fodder production, are needed to keep livestock healthy, prevent a rise in hunger and deepen community engagement in building resilience to shocks. Beyond the drought, fodder production is also a system-level response to growing demand for animal source foods and the rapidly expanding dairy sector in Kenya in particular. This expansion has many positive aspects but does put pressure on sourcing the necessary animal feeds, further reason to explore and develop efficient and integrated animal feed and fodder production and the integration of crop-livestock production systems to ensure high land productivity.
Four major famines have taken place so far in 2017, which has renewed attention on the urgent need to address food security globally. However, food security involves much more than responding to famines, and it is closely linked to factors such as governance, which plays a significant role in fragile states and developing countries. FHI 360 held a Facebook Live discussion on how integrating governance, agriculture and food security can benefit food security programs. The conversation was moderated by Gregory Adams, Director of the Locus Coalition at FHI 360, with FHI 360 experts Joseph Sany, Technical Advisor, Peacebuilding and Conflict Mitigation, and Annette Brown, Director, Research and Evaluation Strategic Initiative.
Despite decades of investments to improve food security for the world’s poorest people, hunger and malnutrition are still problems for many. Indeed, a daunting food security crisis currently puts more than 20 million people at risk of starvation in just four countries: Nigeria, Somalia, South Sudan and Yemen. In sub-Saharan Africa, an estimated 42 million children under the age of 5 will be malnourished by 2050, and 10 million additional children will be malnourished if climate change impacts continue unabated.
This crisis calls for improvements in identifying, understanding and addressing the interlinked factors that result in broadscale food security crises. The cycle of resource degradation caused by climate change that leads to food insecurity, starvation and ongoing conflicts raises the question of whether climate change itself is a “threat multiplier” that increases the potential for conflict. Evidence suggests that the interplay between these sectors is critical to the emergence or development of many humanitarian crises. However, the complexity of these relationships and the role of climate change as a threat multiplier are less understood.
Each year on Global Handwashing Day, hundreds of millions of people around the world gather to celebrate the power of handwashing with soap to save lives. This day also provides an opportunity to consider the current status of the hygiene sector and catalyze further action. As we look toward the future of hygiene behavior change, we need to ensure that we are maximizing the broader topic of integrated development and fully considering its relationship to hygiene.
Integrated development, which can be defined in many different ways, is increasingly being discussed within the international development community, and FHI 360 plays an active role in convening this conversation. I recently had the opportunity, on behalf of the Global Public–Private Partnership for Handwashing (PPPHW), to attend an event hosted by FHI 360 titled Does 1+1=3? Proving the Integration Hypothesis, which brought together expert panelists from academia, government, donors and nongovernmental organizations.
I took away many key learnings from this event, but the one that stuck with me most is this: If we hope to move the needle on the most entrenched development challenges, we need to consider the benefits that could be offered by combining services or sectors.
The numbers are shocking. Each year, 2.8 million babies die during their first 28 days of life, while almost 800 women die every day in pregnancy or childbirth.
A vast majority of these deaths are preventable through simple interventions: providing mothers and their children with access to basic, quality health care, especially during pregnancy and childbirth; encouraging mothers to breastfeed; and treating diarrhea and pneumonia, two of the leading killers of children under 5 years of age.
Despite the impressive progress that has been made in recent years, achieving the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on reproductive, maternal, newborn and child health (MDGs 4, 5 and 6) by 2015 will require an all-out global push.
In June, the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) announced a major realignment of US$2.9 billion of its resources to “save up to half of a million children from preventable deaths by the end of 2015.” In addition, USAID introduced an ambitious strategy, Acting on the Call: Ending Preventable Child and Maternal Deaths, to dramatically increase progress in 24 countries that account for 70 percent of child and maternal deaths.
This is an important policy shift — one that has the potential to have great impact on development by saving the lives of 15 million children and nearly 600,000 women by 2020. FHI 360, a member of the Advisory Group for Acting on the Call, supports USAID’s commitment. We have seen how evidence-based interventions in maternal, newborn and child health are making a difference in communities around the world.
Whether he’s aware of his influence or not, almost every father in every culture influences his family’s choices about how to feed the children. His everyday decisions about how many of the eggs the family’s chickens lay will be sold at market and how many will be kept at home for the family to eat can make the difference between a stunted child and one who reaches his or her full growth potential.
The Alive & Thrive project reviewed programs from around the world that were designed to engage fathers in child feeding, identifying the strategies that seem to make these programs work. Not surprisingly, the six strategies we identified in the most innovative “dads” programs echo sound principles from behavior change and social marketing. Our review indicated that, especially when program planners apply these six strategies, fathers’ actions can lead to real improvements in nutrition.
Good nutrition is critical in preventing child and maternal deaths. Deficiencies in micronutrients, such as iodine, iron, vitamin A and zinc, can lead to impaired physical and cognitive development, poor pregnancy outcomes (for example, a low birth weight baby), a weakened immune system, anemia, night blindness and even death. It is estimated that micronutrient malnutrition affects more than 2 billion people worldwide.
For more than a decade, the Food and Nutritional Technical Assistance (FANTA) project, funded by USAID, has been a key contributor to the global effort to reduce micronutrient deficiencies. Our work has focused on the development of new methods to identify dietary gaps, through research on the impact of lipid-based nutrient supplements on the health status of vulnerable populations and dissemination of the most up-to-date, relevant information to a wide range of nutrition stakeholders.
Recently, FANTA contributed to the development of software called Optifood, which can be used to identify local food combinations that can fill (or come as close as possible to filling) micronutrient gaps based on local foods and diet. Optifood results contribute to the development of cost-effective, context-specific approaches.