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Food security and poverty reduction

Hunger is the world’s greatest health risk, causing chronic malnutrition, disease and death. ACIAR’s projects helps to feed families in developing countries—those most affected by hunger—so they can be healthy and well-nourished and lead fulfilling, successful lives.

Chronic malnutrition, when the body lacks the nutrients it needs to maintain healthy tissues and organs, causes stunted, brain damaged children, while both children and adults are wasted to skin and bone, dying from disease and starvation.

Malnutrition is one of the biggest killers of children: 3 million children die every year from malnutrition, and nearly half of all children who die under the age of 5 die from malnutrition. 

If a malnourished child survives to adulthood, he will probably never reach his full potential.  A child’s first 1,000 days are critical for healthy development.  Malnourished children are often stunted, brain damaged, and vulnerable to disease: kwashiorkor (acute protein-energy malnutrition), anemia (impaired blood system, making concentration difficult), rickets (impaired growth of the bones), and blindness.  He will struggle at school, and, when he reaches adulthood, work a low-paying job and probably suffer diabetes and cancer.  If he fathers children, they, too, will be smaller than normal.  Malnutrition sets up children to fail in life. 

A tenth of the planet’s population, more than 795 million people worldwide, were chronically undernourished in 2014-16, and almost all lived in developing countries.  Malnourishment has declined by 200 million over the last decade, and the number of stunted children under 5 is decreasing in every region except Africa and Oceania.  One in six children under five, some 98 million children worldwide, are still underweight; most are in South Asia.   

The economic costs are also considerable. Malnutrition reduces economic productivity worldwide by more than 3% of most developing countries’ GDPs.

ACIAR projects help people in those regions most afflicted by malnutrition, including Asia, Africa and the Pacific, to feed their families, and give them a chance in life. ACIAR develops nutritious, disease-resistant vegetables and livestock, helps farmers to produce plentiful harvests and raise healthy animals, and strengthens value chains connecting farmers to markets. ACIAR helps the world to feed itself.