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The children of Afghanistan and Haiti desperately need a ‘nutrition intervention’: William Lambers


CINCINNATI — During World War II, donations from Cleveland residents supported American Relief for Norway. This charity provided life-saving aid to victims of the Nazi German occupation of Norway.

In 1944, Norwegian author Else Margrete Roed visited Cleveland to tell just how helpful these donations were, especially for hungry children.

Ms. Roed said in The Plain Dealer of Oct. 7, 1944, that, “Hot breakfasts, daily meals, medicines, are the vital material American Relief for Norway, one of the 22 war related agencies of your national war fund, has been furnishing my country.”

One of American Relief for Norway’s major initiatives was providing milk to Norwegian children to prevent malnutrition. This was achieved with the help of Sweden and agencies operating in Norway, including Save the Children. It made a big difference for children’s health in a country being plundered by the Nazis. It’s what’s called a nutrition intervention. It saves children’s lives.

Lack of food, especially for a small child, can cause physical and mental damage, or death. Nutrition interventions are urgent for countries in crisis. These interventions are needed desperately right now for children in Afghanistan and Haiti.

The overthrow of the Afghan government by the Taliban is the latest tragedy for a nation already reeling from hunger and the spread of COVID-19. A major drought is ongoing in many Afghan provinces, leaving farmers unable to grow food.

The U.N. World Food Program says 14 million Afghans face acute food insecurity, including 2 million children at risk of malnutrition. The WFP plans to scale up its relief efforts to respond to the crisis in Afghanistan. Included are programs to prevent and treat malnutrition among children and mothers. This will depend on funding from the international community.

These nutrition programs are a source of stability for Afghans during this time of great upheaval. Hassan Noor, Asia regional director for Save the Children, says, “Now is not the time to lose focus on our obligations to the Afghan people and the work that must continue to happen in Afghanistan. Children desperately need access to services, including nutrition support, to survive.”

Likewise, in Haiti, nutrition for children is crucial in the aftermath of the massive earthquake that hit the southwest part of the impoverished country. Save the Children says, “Even before the earthquake, more than 1.1 million people in Haiti were estimated to be one step away from famine, including hundreds of thousands of children.”

We need to scale up food and nutrition programs for children in Afghanistan, Haiti and many other countries on the brink of famine. Madagascar, Yemen, South Sudan and Congo are among the countries where severe hunger is taking place.

William Lambers

William Lambers is a Cincinnati author who writes frequently on world hunger.

We are in the midst of a major global hunger and malnutrition crisis. By writing to your member of Congress, you can urge them to increase international food aid and pass the Global Malnutrition Prevention and Treatment Act (H.R. 4693). The legislation calls for “increasing coverage, particularly in priority countries, of nutrition interventions” that prevent the tragedy of deadly malnutrition among children.

Expanding the McGovern-Dole program that provides school meals to children around the world is another step that Congress can take to support nutrition interventions. McGovern-Dole provides funding to Catholic Relief Services, CARE, WFP, Save the Children and other charities so they can provide school meals in impoverished countries.

Else Margrete Roed said donations to American Relief for Norway that fed malnourished children during World War II were a “kind helping hand.” That is just what children in Afghanistan, Haiti and elsewhere need right now. Nutrition is something we can give them. Nutrition is hope.

William Lambers is a Cincinnati-based author who partnered with the World Food Program on the 2009 book, “Ending World Hunger: School Lunches for Kids around the World.

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* Email general questions about our editorial board or comments or corrections on this opinion column to Elizabeth Sullivan, director of opinion, at esullivan@cleveland.com.



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