Aid that promotes nutrition and food security has wide-ranging benefits compared to its costs in the fight against poverty-related problems, a top humanitarian policy analyst at international aid agency World Vision said Thursday during a Congressional hearing on global hunger.
"In this tight budget environment, improving nutrition is one of the most cost-effective ways to address many global problems," said Robert Zachritz, World Vision's advocacy director. "While it is a basic human right, access to sufficient food for a healthy, productive life has not been secured for millions around the world and the consequences are more illness and death."
According to the most recent statistics, more than a billion people today (or one in every six persons on earth) live on the verge of hunger.
And every year, nearly nine million children under age five die of preventable causes, and malnutrition underlies more than one-third of these deaths.
During Thursday's hearing, World Vision's Zachritz cited a panel of eight economists, including five Nobel Prize laureates, who in May 2008 ranked the most cost-effective interventions to address 10 major global challenges.
The economists had found that half of the top 10 solutions with the most benefit for cost related specifically to nutrition. These target nutrition for children under age two, fortifying foods with iron and iodine, and promoting nutrition at the community level.
World Vision is appealing to members of the Congressional Human Rights Caucus at the hearing, titled "Facing Global Hunger: Food as Right," to fully fund the U.S. Food for Peace and McGovern-Dole International Food for Education programs and to support the Global Hunger and Food Security Initiative proposed last year by President Obama, including nutrition and agriculture development programs.
"There is a big difference between stating a right and ensuring that right is preserved," said Zachritz.
The Christian humanitarian agency World Vision is actively fighting hunger and poverty in almost 100 countries. The organization distributes emergency food aid and also works to combat hunger's causes through longer-term agricultural and livelihood programs such as providing local farmers with the seeds, tools and training they need to grow their own food and feed their own communities.