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WFP and Stanford University Press release new series on hunger
This inaugural edition examines the relationship between hunger and learning.
Nobel Laureate in Economics, Professor Kenneth J. Arrow, described the report as providing “overwhelming evidence for the extent to which hunger, pre- and post-natal, damages the child’s ability to learn. Individual and national economic and personal growth are correspondingly damaged.”
The World Hunger Series stands out because of the practical interventions it documents for each stage of the life cycle.
Impact of hunger
For example, this year’s issue cites a study in Jamaica which showed that undernourished children scored dramatically higher results on a test of their verbal fluency after they were given breakfast.
These results showed how hunger can decrease intellectual ability – and how addressing malnutrition can make a significant impact.
Over 300 million children worldwide regularly go to bed hungry and approximately 100 million of these are school-aged children who don’t go to school because their parents are too poor.
The publication addresses how learning and hunger impact each other— even if they do manage to go to school, undernourished children are unable to concentrate on their lessons.
“This can cyclone into a vicious circle, where a population of hungry, unskilled adults creates a generation of children too hungry to grow, learn or develop the capacity to fight hunger, and then go on to have their own hungry children,” said Sheila Sisulu, Deputy Executive Director of the World Food Programme.
“The World Hunger Series shows that learning can be an effective means of addressing hunger,” said Sisulu.
“Education is not just about literacy and numeracy,” she added, “it can also give people knowledge about health, hygiene, nutrition in addition to basic skills or trades which enable them to feed themselves and their families.”
Increasing the percentage of educated women in a community can greatly reduce childhood hunger.
Importance of school
The number of years a woman attended school can reduce the likelihood that her child will be malnourished by up to 40 percent.
In the second half of the report, options are laid out for policy makers for going forward, including basic steps to implement effective strategies to fight hunger and inadequate learning.
The analysis calls for long-term commitments on the part of national governments and the international community.
The report is available in English, French, Spanish and Arabic. The English edition of the 2006 World Hunger Series is a co-publication of the World Food Programme and Stanford University Press.
Future editions of the World Hunger Series will address key issues such as the relationship between hunger and health, trade, crises and social exclusion.