Agriculture and nutrition share a common entry point: “food.” Food is a key outcome of agricultural activities, and, in turn, is a key input into good nutrition. Without agriculture there is little food or nutrition, but availability of food from agriculture doesn’t ensure good nutrition. Common sense would dictate a reinforcing relationship between the two fields of agriculture and nutrition but, in fact, there is often a significant disconnect.
Agriculture and Rural Development
On sait que l’épidémie d’Ebola a eu un impact dévastateur sur le plan de la santé, avec, à ce jour, 21 000 personnes infectées et 8 000 décédées. On connaît aussi ses effets sur l’économie de l’Afrique de l’Ouest : selon les dernières estimations de la Banque mondiale, la crise Ebola se chiffrera en 2015 à au moins 1,6 milliard de dollars de pertes de croissance pour la Guinée, le Libéria et la Sierra Leone.
Most people are aware of Ebola's devastating impact on human health. To date, over 22,800 people have been infected and 9,000 have died. Its effects on West Africa's economy have also been well-documented. According to recent World Bank estimates, Ebola will cause at least US$ 1.6 billion in lost economic growth in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone in 2015.
Gerardo Bravo Garcia, Avian Flu Series, 2006, Oil & Gold Leaf on Canvas -
Courtesy of the World Bank Art Program
This blog is based on the World Development Report 2014: Risks and Opportunity - Managing Risk for Development, which discusses pandemics in Chapter 8 on global risks.
Pandemics do not start in a vacuum. A staggering 2.3 billion infections by zoonotic (animal-borne) pathogens afflict people in developing countries every year. Some pathogens become capable of easy human-to-human spread, like AIDS, flu, or severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). The diseases harm health, nutrition, and food and income security. The poorest are hit the worst, as they tend to live with livestock or near wild animals in settings where animal disease incidence is high and public health standards are low.
It is common to hear officials from countries and international agencies talk about the multiple challenges that impede intersectoral work for health. The concern is valid: while ministries of health and related institutions are organized and funded to improve the “health” of the population, other ministries do not have such a mandate. In most cases, this has led to a certain paralysis characterized by lofty aspirations in the health sector about the potential benefits of intersectoral action, but with little collaboration and action involving other sectors.
Although the world produces a surplus of food, we have yet to achieve the right balance between the production of food and achievement of good nutrition. A new World Bank-hosted knowledge platform will generate better understanding of the links between agriculture, food security and nutrition, to help countries reach the Millennium Development Goal on hunger (MDG 1). Read more on the SecureNutrition blog.
Save the Children’s recent report, A Life Free from Hunger: Tackling Child Malnutrition, reminds us that undernutrition is not a new crisis—and that the crisis will deepen if the global community fails to take serious action. If current trends persist, 11.7 million more children will be stunted in Sub-Saharan Africa by 2025, compared to 2010.
What can we do? Food is part of the answer, but it’s about the right food, at the right time—not just starchy staple foods that fill empty stomachs. According to Save the Children, more than half of children in some countries are eating diets of just three items: a staple food, a legume, and a vegetable (usually green leaves).
Availability of food and access to food are necessary but insufficient to ensure good nutrition. Insidiously, malnutrition (undernutrition) is not hunger, although malnourished children are often hungry. And undernutrition is frequently invisible, but increases the risk of child death; steals children’s growth; decreases cognitive potential, school performance, and adult productivity; and contributes to the development of non-communicable diseases later in life.
If you accept my 5 cents of wisdom, you should rush to see the new movie “Contagion.” It is a well done, spooky public health mystery, with great acting. Why you may ask? Simply because it is a timely reminder about the public health risks but also the potential benefits of a globalized world.
Watching the movie brought back vivid memories of passionate discussions we had in the fall of 2005 when we—a Europe and Central Asia and East Asia and the Pacific agriculture and public health team—prepared in a few days what became the $500 million Global Program for Avian Influenza and Human Pandemic Preparedness and Response.