Friday, June 23, 2017 EDITORIAL

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Attack on BNP leader vis-à-vis future of democracy

Regarded as the greatest novelist of all times possessing unparalleled mastery, Leo Tolstoy was a major influence in developments of Christian anarchism and resistance movements of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela and so on.  Despising double standards in anything whatever, the sage observed that “the least wide-awake of children recognise it, and is revolted by it, however ingeniously it may be disguised.”
Verbal expression of accord, not backed up by real action, is false virtue; empty talk for impressing others which serves next to no purpose in the long run. Paying lip service to a point at issue is one thing and to mean it is another.
Given that sincerity refers to the absence of pretence and travesty, frank earnestness is a quality much extolled among men and pleasing to everyone, while simulation, on the contrary, is detested and condemned, as was the view of Italian historian and statesman Francesco Guicciardini.
As is her wont to hurl insults and vitriolic diatribes—-more often than not without rhyme or reason—-at her arch-rival opposition BNP chief Khaleda Zia, it was astonishingly a positive news for all and sundry when for the first time in the last three and a half years Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asked Khaleda to participate in the upcoming parliamentary election due in 2019.
But after a day preposterous volte-face ensued with violent attack by allegedly the ruling Awami League (AL) hoodlums on the BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, the second man in the party hierarchy, and his companions.
The motorcade  carrying a BNP delegation led by BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir came under attack in Chittagong’s Rangunia on 18 June 2017 when he was en route to visit the landslide-affected areas of Chittagong Hill Tracts. The attack seemed like an attempt to kill, said BNP standing committee member Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury, who was with Fakhrul inside the vehicle. Amid heavy rains, the youths started hitting the vehicles with sharp weapons, iron rods and big stones, he said. Terming the attack “an example of the government’s intolerance”, Fakhrul said it does not want to give BNP any scope to stand by the people.
AL general secretary Obaidul Quader said: “The attack on the BNP delegation is a grave offence and it’s unacceptable.”And as an additional point, as leaders and activists of BNP brought out a procession in front of its Nayapaltan office to protest the attack on Alamgir, police picked up seven activists of BNP during the protest.
This indicates the lack of sincerity in the call by Sheikh Hasina to Khaleda Zia to join the next parliamentary election. Police, who are too active and quick to arrest, in this case took no action. An indispensable foundation stone of democracy and a safeguard against arbitrary governance, the rule of law is the principle that everyone —from the prime minister down to the man in the street — is subject to the law. In this country the premise is very different when it comes to proper application of law.
Amid unbridled incidents of killings and enforced disappearances of opposition political leaders in particular and common people in general, when the National Human Rights Commission’s chief articulated at a university symposium about the situation in August 2010 that “there is no rule of law in the country” the body politic was in agreement with his statement hook, line and sinker in view of the objective condition obtaining in the country.
As it happens, the majority of the Parliament Members were selected by the Prime Minister, and not elected by the electorate in 2014. The Rule of Law denotes that government and its officials and agents as well as individuals and private entities are accountable under the law; but in our case, norms of law are not obeyed.
According to the human rights watchdog Odhikar, the total number of victims of extrajudicial killings from 2001 to 2017 February was 496, of which 149 were killed during the BNP rule (2001 - 2006), while during the Awami League regime (2009 to February 2017) the total number of victims of extrajudicial killings were 319—-more than double that of the BNP rule. [Vide http:/ /1dgy051 vgyxh 41o8cj 16kk7s 19f2.  wpengine. netdna -cdn. com/ wp- content/ uploads /2017 /03/ Statistics_EJK_2001-2017-Janu-Feb.pdf].
All these portend bad days for democracy. Bangladesh, to quote a British journal, used to have a kind of rotating one-party system.  Sheikh Hasina is trying to keep the one-party bit without the rotation. In Bangladesh from 1991 to 2006 the League and BNP would rule in turns, winning elections thanks to popular disgust at the other’s failings, and using their stints in office to enrich themselves and hound the opposition. So entrenched was the winner-takes-all mentality that even the possibility of free elections was unimaginable, and polls were held under supposedly impartial caretaker governments. But after a landslide victory in 2008, the League changed the constitution to get rid of the caretaker arrangement. As a result the BNP boycotted the most recent election, in January 2014. No longer enjoying a popular mandate, and with opposition marginalised, the League has bullied and muzzled the press and bought off public officials with a hefty pay rise.
The courts, civil service, army and police are all thoroughly politicised.
[Vide https://archive.org/stream/The_Economist_ May_14_2016/The_Economist_May_14_2016_djvu.txt
The Economist May 14th 2016]
Amid bleak prospect of governance owing to wanton disregard for the rule of law there is blatant denial of people’s democratic rights, which is absolutely deplorable.

Comment

Regarded as the greatest novelist of all times possessing unparalleled mastery, Leo Tolstoy was a major influence in developments of Christian anarchism and resistance movements of Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela and so on.  Despising double standards in anything whatever, the sage observed that “the least wide-awake of children recognise it, and is revolted by it, however ingeniously it may be disguised.”
Verbal expression of accord, not backed up by real action, is false virtue; empty talk for impressing others which serves next to no purpose in the long run. Paying lip service to a point at issue is one thing and to mean it is another.
Given that sincerity refers to the absence of pretence and travesty, frank earnestness is a quality much extolled among men and pleasing to everyone, while simulation, on the contrary, is detested and condemned, as was the view of Italian historian and statesman Francesco Guicciardini.
As is her wont to hurl insults and vitriolic diatribes—-more often than not without rhyme or reason—-at her arch-rival opposition BNP chief Khaleda Zia, it was astonishingly a positive news for all and sundry when for the first time in the last three and a half years Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asked Khaleda to participate in the upcoming parliamentary election due in 2019.
But after a day preposterous volte-face ensued with violent attack by allegedly the ruling Awami League (AL) hoodlums on the BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir, the second man in the party hierarchy, and his companions.
The motorcade  carrying a BNP delegation led by BNP secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir came under attack in Chittagong’s Rangunia on 18 June 2017 when he was en route to visit the landslide-affected areas of Chittagong Hill Tracts. The attack seemed like an attempt to kill, said BNP standing committee member Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury, who was with Fakhrul inside the vehicle. Amid heavy rains, the youths started hitting the vehicles with sharp weapons, iron rods and big stones, he said. Terming the attack “an example of the government’s intolerance”, Fakhrul said it does not want to give BNP any scope to stand by the people.
AL general secretary Obaidul Quader said: “The attack on the BNP delegation is a grave offence and it’s unacceptable.”And as an additional point, as leaders and activists of BNP brought out a procession in front of its Nayapaltan office to protest the attack on Alamgir, police picked up seven activists of BNP during the protest.
This indicates the lack of sincerity in the call by Sheikh Hasina to Khaleda Zia to join the next parliamentary election. Police, who are too active and quick to arrest, in this case took no action. An indispensable foundation stone of democracy and a safeguard against arbitrary governance, the rule of law is the principle that everyone —from the prime minister down to the man in the street — is subject to the law. In this country the premise is very different when it comes to proper application of law.
Amid unbridled incidents of killings and enforced disappearances of opposition political leaders in particular and common people in general, when the National Human Rights Commission’s chief articulated at a university symposium about the situation in August 2010 that “there is no rule of law in the country” the body politic was in agreement with his statement hook, line and sinker in view of the objective condition obtaining in the country.
As it happens, the majority of the Parliament Members were selected by the Prime Minister, and not elected by the electorate in 2014. The Rule of Law denotes that government and its officials and agents as well as individuals and private entities are accountable under the law; but in our case, norms of law are not obeyed.
According to the human rights watchdog Odhikar, the total number of victims of extrajudicial killings from 2001 to 2017 February was 496, of which 149 were killed during the BNP rule (2001 - 2006), while during the Awami League regime (2009 to February 2017) the total number of victims of extrajudicial killings were 319—-more than double that of the BNP rule. [Vide http:/ /1dgy051 vgyxh 41o8cj 16kk7s 19f2.  wpengine. netdna -cdn. com/ wp- content/ uploads /2017 /03/ Statistics_EJK_2001-2017-Janu-Feb.pdf].
All these portend bad days for democracy. Bangladesh, to quote a British journal, used to have a kind of rotating one-party system.  Sheikh Hasina is trying to keep the one-party bit without the rotation. In Bangladesh from 1991 to 2006 the League and BNP would rule in turns, winning elections thanks to popular disgust at the other’s failings, and using their stints in office to enrich themselves and hound the opposition. So entrenched was the winner-takes-all mentality that even the possibility of free elections was unimaginable, and polls were held under supposedly impartial caretaker governments. But after a landslide victory in 2008, the League changed the constitution to get rid of the caretaker arrangement. As a result the BNP boycotted the most recent election, in January 2014. No longer enjoying a popular mandate, and with opposition marginalised, the League has bullied and muzzled the press and bought off public officials with a hefty pay rise.
The courts, civil service, army and police are all thoroughly politicised.
[Vide https://archive.org/stream/The_Economist_ May_14_2016/The_Economist_May_14_2016_djvu.txt
The Economist May 14th 2016]
Amid bleak prospect of governance owing to wanton disregard for the rule of law there is blatant denial of people’s democratic rights, which is absolutely deplorable.

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The country under the grip of Eid extortions

Mir Abdul Alim
 
“Reckless Commerce of the Police” was a major headline in a national daily newspaper from Dhaka published on June 12. Another newspaper reported “Nuisance of Extortion Keeping Eid ahead.” Every year the torment of extortionists increases during the Eid and other festival time. This Eid is of no exception. In this game, the police personnel, too, are not lagging behind. Extortion is in bus terminals, on roads & highways in the form of gratuity.
The allegations of the police’s involvement in sheltering the drug dealers besides the allegations of their involvement in extracting money by misusing their power, torturing the innocent and freeing the criminals in exchange of money are being widely reported.
 
Nexus between police & musclemen
The extortionists are doing their job openly. So why are they not being stopped? Why is the government failing to eliminate them as it has cracked down on the rajakars and the militants? The police are seen everywhere but fail to do the job they are supposed to do. But there is no answer for this.
Reckless extortions in the city’s footpaths are now allegedly going on under the joint patronage of the ruling party activists and the police. The rate of extortions has doubled because of the Eid. The president of the Bangladesh Hawker’s Federation and the Bangladesh Hawker’s League, M A Quashem told newsmen that the hawkers are being forced to pay double from the beginning of Ramadhan. This outrageous extortions are being practiced everywhere.
It is also learned that a person died of physical torture because he refused pay to the police and the mobsters. These joint groups of police and their agents are extorting money by stopping buses, trucks and even private cars on the roads and highways. It has been alleged that there is a nexus between the highway police, the industrial police and the local Thana police in coordinating their loot.
Interestingly, the influential local ruling party leaders are allegedly running a kind of extortion business publicly in the name of “Traffic Congestion Project”. They have their own cadre force to make sure that the all passerby pay. Often people are harassed as reported in the media frequently. As the Eid is approaching fast, they are becoming more restive and ferocious. Literally, there is nothing that they can’t do for money because they know that they are protected.
 
Total lack of transparency
Media reports say many notorious terrorists are out on bail and have stepped up activities in extortion business with support from police and political groups. Small businessmen and shop owners from Jatrabari, Sayedabad, Motijheel, Fakirapul, Gulistan and Elephant Road have complained about the presence of these notorious terrorists now at large. Usually extortionists are always active during the festival time, but now they seem to have become desperate.
Extortions continue all the year round almost everywhere, but such acts routinely proliferate during all festival time. The law enforcers are aware of seasonal rise and fall of all kinds of extortions cases by the criminals, but we hardly have noticed any timely action by them to prevent it. Senior police officials claim that the law enforcement agencies are taking stern steps against all kinds of extortions. But our experience is different. We see nothing in the field and have hardly noticed any punishment being meted out to those evil doers. On the contrary we see how their number is being increased and how we see more people complaining.
It is true that the law enforcement agencies, specially the members of RAB have been able to scare some of the culprits through their actions from time to time. But occasional acts have failed to eliminate the risks of the menace called extortions. Instead, extortionists are evolving different channels and methodologies to do their job one of which is demanding money through mobile phones and threatening them of severe consequences otherwise. No society can really sustain itself without the maintenance of proper law and order by the law enforces.
Professor Sayed Mahfuzul Haque Marjan of the department of Criminology of the University of Dhaka told newsmen that the main reason for the increased number of allegations against the police personnel about extorting money through unfair means is the partisan appointment of the members of the police force; and involvement of large amount of fund for their transfers and appointment-promotion and total lack of transparency in all such dealings.
 
Only answer: Good governance
Another story says that the poor policeman has to borrow large sum of money for getting the job and once on the job, he has to extort money firstly to pay back the loan and then of course, it becomes a habit that nobody can really kick off. It remains ingrained in the system.  Besides, he has to share his loot with others in the department as per unwritten rule.
To reduce crimes, transparency has to be maintained in all sectors. In fact, corruption will not be reduced if the transparency in the three areas —— appointment, transfer and promotion is not ensured. Besides, emphasizing the importance of the honest officials, the police force should be freed from the influence of politics and regionalism. Experts have said that once punishing the criminals on time is established as a rule and transparency and accountability in all sections of the government is strictly enforced, the immensity of the problem would be greatly reduced.
Discipline in the administration can only be maintained when the good governance is ensured in the country. Now it is a huge task and cannot be fulfilled unless the whole system is thoroughly recast. No ad hoc, stop gap arrangement can really solve the problem that we are facing today.
However, as the prime minister and her government has repeatedly asserted about their zero tolerance on terrorism, if she can realize the enormity of the problem that the large number of people – from commuters, businessmen, transport workers, bus owners and small shop and tiny stall owners on the streets – are suffering and declare zero tolerance for extortions and asks the law enforces to ensure it, there may be some improvement. It will bring some grateful smiles on the face of the millions of harassed people.
 
Mir Abdul Alim: Chairman: Al-Rafi Hospital Ltd. & columnist,e-mail-newsstore13@gmail.com,01733361111

Comment

Mir Abdul Alim
 
“Reckless Commerce of the Police” was a major headline in a national daily newspaper from Dhaka published on June 12. Another newspaper reported “Nuisance of Extortion Keeping Eid ahead.” Every year the torment of extortionists increases during the Eid and other festival time. This Eid is of no exception. In this game, the police personnel, too, are not lagging behind. Extortion is in bus terminals, on roads & highways in the form of gratuity.
The allegations of the police’s involvement in sheltering the drug dealers besides the allegations of their involvement in extracting money by misusing their power, torturing the innocent and freeing the criminals in exchange of money are being widely reported.
 
Nexus between police & musclemen
The extortionists are doing their job openly. So why are they not being stopped? Why is the government failing to eliminate them as it has cracked down on the rajakars and the militants? The police are seen everywhere but fail to do the job they are supposed to do. But there is no answer for this.
Reckless extortions in the city’s footpaths are now allegedly going on under the joint patronage of the ruling party activists and the police. The rate of extortions has doubled because of the Eid. The president of the Bangladesh Hawker’s Federation and the Bangladesh Hawker’s League, M A Quashem told newsmen that the hawkers are being forced to pay double from the beginning of Ramadhan. This outrageous extortions are being practiced everywhere.
It is also learned that a person died of physical torture because he refused pay to the police and the mobsters. These joint groups of police and their agents are extorting money by stopping buses, trucks and even private cars on the roads and highways. It has been alleged that there is a nexus between the highway police, the industrial police and the local Thana police in coordinating their loot.
Interestingly, the influential local ruling party leaders are allegedly running a kind of extortion business publicly in the name of “Traffic Congestion Project”. They have their own cadre force to make sure that the all passerby pay. Often people are harassed as reported in the media frequently. As the Eid is approaching fast, they are becoming more restive and ferocious. Literally, there is nothing that they can’t do for money because they know that they are protected.
 
Total lack of transparency
Media reports say many notorious terrorists are out on bail and have stepped up activities in extortion business with support from police and political groups. Small businessmen and shop owners from Jatrabari, Sayedabad, Motijheel, Fakirapul, Gulistan and Elephant Road have complained about the presence of these notorious terrorists now at large. Usually extortionists are always active during the festival time, but now they seem to have become desperate.
Extortions continue all the year round almost everywhere, but such acts routinely proliferate during all festival time. The law enforcers are aware of seasonal rise and fall of all kinds of extortions cases by the criminals, but we hardly have noticed any timely action by them to prevent it. Senior police officials claim that the law enforcement agencies are taking stern steps against all kinds of extortions. But our experience is different. We see nothing in the field and have hardly noticed any punishment being meted out to those evil doers. On the contrary we see how their number is being increased and how we see more people complaining.
It is true that the law enforcement agencies, specially the members of RAB have been able to scare some of the culprits through their actions from time to time. But occasional acts have failed to eliminate the risks of the menace called extortions. Instead, extortionists are evolving different channels and methodologies to do their job one of which is demanding money through mobile phones and threatening them of severe consequences otherwise. No society can really sustain itself without the maintenance of proper law and order by the law enforces.
Professor Sayed Mahfuzul Haque Marjan of the department of Criminology of the University of Dhaka told newsmen that the main reason for the increased number of allegations against the police personnel about extorting money through unfair means is the partisan appointment of the members of the police force; and involvement of large amount of fund for their transfers and appointment-promotion and total lack of transparency in all such dealings.
 
Only answer: Good governance
Another story says that the poor policeman has to borrow large sum of money for getting the job and once on the job, he has to extort money firstly to pay back the loan and then of course, it becomes a habit that nobody can really kick off. It remains ingrained in the system.  Besides, he has to share his loot with others in the department as per unwritten rule.
To reduce crimes, transparency has to be maintained in all sectors. In fact, corruption will not be reduced if the transparency in the three areas —— appointment, transfer and promotion is not ensured. Besides, emphasizing the importance of the honest officials, the police force should be freed from the influence of politics and regionalism. Experts have said that once punishing the criminals on time is established as a rule and transparency and accountability in all sections of the government is strictly enforced, the immensity of the problem would be greatly reduced.
Discipline in the administration can only be maintained when the good governance is ensured in the country. Now it is a huge task and cannot be fulfilled unless the whole system is thoroughly recast. No ad hoc, stop gap arrangement can really solve the problem that we are facing today.
However, as the prime minister and her government has repeatedly asserted about their zero tolerance on terrorism, if she can realize the enormity of the problem that the large number of people – from commuters, businessmen, transport workers, bus owners and small shop and tiny stall owners on the streets – are suffering and declare zero tolerance for extortions and asks the law enforces to ensure it, there may be some improvement. It will bring some grateful smiles on the face of the millions of harassed people.
 
Mir Abdul Alim: Chairman: Al-Rafi Hospital Ltd. & columnist,e-mail-newsstore13@gmail.com,01733361111

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 VIEW POINT 

Time to focus on the hidden hunger issue

Bev Postma
 
EVERY day too many men and women across the globe struggle to feed their children a nutritious meal. In a world where we produce enough food to feed everyone, 795 million people – one in nine – still go to bed on an empty stomach each night. Even more – one in three – suffer from some form of malnutrition.
Until 2006, the average international price of food had been largely stable for several decades. In the closing months of 2006, however, prices began to rise rapidly. By 2008, rice had tripled in price in some regions, and this severely affected developing countries. Food prices fell in early 2009, but rose to another record high in 2011, and have since decreased slightly. The 2008 worldwide financial crisis further increased the number of people suffering from hunger, including dramatic increases even in advanced economies such as Great Britain, the Eurozone and the United States.
The Millennium Development Goals included a commitment to a further 50pc reduction in the proportion of the world’s population who suffered from extreme hunger by 2015. As of 2012, this target appeared difficult to achieve, due in part to persistent inflation in food prices. However, in late 2012 the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) stated it is still possible to hit the target with sufficient effort. In 2013, the FAO estimated that 842 million people are undernourished (12pc of the global population). Malnutrition is a cause of death for more than 3.1 million children under 5 every year. UNICEF estimates 300 million children go to bed hungry each night; and that 8000 children under the age of 5 are estimated to die of malnutrition every day.
Malnutrition is a general term for a condition caused by inadequate dietary intake and/or disease; it can occur in conjunction with both under and over consumption of calories and/or micro-nutrients. Famine is a widespread scarcity of food that may apply to any fauna species; the phenomenon is usually accompanied by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality.
If the international community pulls together this year to incorporate proven solutions such as biofortifying crops into the UN framework for sustainable development, we could reduce malnutrition on a truly global scale.
Previous UN-led efforts, including the Millennium Development Goals, and the current Sustainable Development Goals set targets for countries to lift themselves out of poverty and hunger. With the support of multiple UN initiatives and partners, the number of undernourished people in developing countries has decreased by nearly half since 1990. This is encouraging.
However, one-third of the world’s population continues to suffer from ‘hidden hunger,’ caused by a lack of essential vitamins and minerals. Even if people have enough calories to eat, they can still suffer from ‘hidden hunger’ if their only food options do not contain the necessary micronutrients.
 
Micronutrients 
Zinc, vitamin A and iron are three of the more important micronutrients for health, according to the World Health Organization. Each of these nutrients play a critical role in normal body functions. A diet lacking in these nutrients presents a major threat to human health, potentially causing stunting, decreased cognitive ability, diarrheal disease, auto-immune deficiency, blindness and early child mortality. Around 375,000 children go blind each year as a result of a lack of vitamin A; and zinc deficiency causes 450,000 deaths annually.
More than 2 billion people suffer from hidden hunger globally, and there is a ripple effect that has consequences for the entire population. The World Bank estimates that in Pakistan malnutrition costs the country $7.6 billion, or 3 percent of its GDP annually. Likewise, the African Union estimates that Rwanda loses more than 11 percent of its GDP due to child undernutrition alone.
Countries with high levels of malnutrition must contend with these cumulative effects of high healthcare costs and lost productivity wherever they are in the world.
There are a number of solutions to address micronutrient deficiency, but crop biofortification can reach communities where traditional supplementation and food fortification potentially cannot. Growing more nutritious versions of everyday food crops is a simple, sustainable and cost-effective solution that does not place any undue burden on farmers. These biofortified crops are also widely accepted by consumers, as extensive research is done to ensure the crops look and taste similar to the traditional varieties.
HarvestPlus has spent the past 14 years working with leading research institutes to prove that biofortified crops, which contain greater quantities of vitamin A, iron and zinc than standard varieties, can reach communities that need them.
In India, iron-biofortified pearl millet provides children with 70 percent of daily iron requirements. More than a million Indian farmers have embraced the more nutritious variety, which is also high yielding and drought tolerant, providing farmers with a more stable income while simultaneously bolstering their family’s nutrition.
 
Biofortified beans
A study of iron-deficient women between the ages of 18 and 27 in Rwanda proved that eating biofortified beans high in iron reversed iron deficiency in just four-and-a-half months. In a region plagued by hot weather and drought, iron beans present the added benefit of being high yielding, drought resistant and heat tolerant.
Countries across the world are already embracing the science of biofortification. The government of Zambia launched a campaign to get schools to grow and feed their students vitamin A-biofortified orange maize, while Brazil is distributing biofortified crops to schools through its states’ school feeding programs.
In Uganda, five iron-rich bean varieties were released last year as part of the government’s strategy to tackle malnutrition and reduce anemia, especially in children and expectant mothers. These countries, among many others, have chosen to implement a proven, cost-effective solution to address micronutrient deficiency and they are relying on international organizations like the United Nations to provide additional support.
Earlier this year, HarvestPlus made a public commitment to work with UN agencies and member states to be part of the decade of action on nutrition. In line with our commitment, we are calling on all governments and institutions to help us scale up the introduction of biofortified foods by bridging the gap that exists between agriculture and nutrition.
If we can work with the UN, national governments and farming communities to encourage the adoption of this breakthrough innovation, we can help lift one billion people out of poverty and hidden hunger just by providing access to a diverse and nutritious diet.
 
Bev Postma is a policy expert in international food systems, nutrition and food security. She is the CEO of HarvestPlus, USA

Comment

Bev Postma
 
EVERY day too many men and women across the globe struggle to feed their children a nutritious meal. In a world where we produce enough food to feed everyone, 795 million people – one in nine – still go to bed on an empty stomach each night. Even more – one in three – suffer from some form of malnutrition.
Until 2006, the average international price of food had been largely stable for several decades. In the closing months of 2006, however, prices began to rise rapidly. By 2008, rice had tripled in price in some regions, and this severely affected developing countries. Food prices fell in early 2009, but rose to another record high in 2011, and have since decreased slightly. The 2008 worldwide financial crisis further increased the number of people suffering from hunger, including dramatic increases even in advanced economies such as Great Britain, the Eurozone and the United States.
The Millennium Development Goals included a commitment to a further 50pc reduction in the proportion of the world’s population who suffered from extreme hunger by 2015. As of 2012, this target appeared difficult to achieve, due in part to persistent inflation in food prices. However, in late 2012 the UN’s Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) stated it is still possible to hit the target with sufficient effort. In 2013, the FAO estimated that 842 million people are undernourished (12pc of the global population). Malnutrition is a cause of death for more than 3.1 million children under 5 every year. UNICEF estimates 300 million children go to bed hungry each night; and that 8000 children under the age of 5 are estimated to die of malnutrition every day.
Malnutrition is a general term for a condition caused by inadequate dietary intake and/or disease; it can occur in conjunction with both under and over consumption of calories and/or micro-nutrients. Famine is a widespread scarcity of food that may apply to any fauna species; the phenomenon is usually accompanied by regional malnutrition, starvation, epidemic, and increased mortality.
If the international community pulls together this year to incorporate proven solutions such as biofortifying crops into the UN framework for sustainable development, we could reduce malnutrition on a truly global scale.
Previous UN-led efforts, including the Millennium Development Goals, and the current Sustainable Development Goals set targets for countries to lift themselves out of poverty and hunger. With the support of multiple UN initiatives and partners, the number of undernourished people in developing countries has decreased by nearly half since 1990. This is encouraging.
However, one-third of the world’s population continues to suffer from ‘hidden hunger,’ caused by a lack of essential vitamins and minerals. Even if people have enough calories to eat, they can still suffer from ‘hidden hunger’ if their only food options do not contain the necessary micronutrients.
 
Micronutrients 
Zinc, vitamin A and iron are three of the more important micronutrients for health, according to the World Health Organization. Each of these nutrients play a critical role in normal body functions. A diet lacking in these nutrients presents a major threat to human health, potentially causing stunting, decreased cognitive ability, diarrheal disease, auto-immune deficiency, blindness and early child mortality. Around 375,000 children go blind each year as a result of a lack of vitamin A; and zinc deficiency causes 450,000 deaths annually.
More than 2 billion people suffer from hidden hunger globally, and there is a ripple effect that has consequences for the entire population. The World Bank estimates that in Pakistan malnutrition costs the country $7.6 billion, or 3 percent of its GDP annually. Likewise, the African Union estimates that Rwanda loses more than 11 percent of its GDP due to child undernutrition alone.
Countries with high levels of malnutrition must contend with these cumulative effects of high healthcare costs and lost productivity wherever they are in the world.
There are a number of solutions to address micronutrient deficiency, but crop biofortification can reach communities where traditional supplementation and food fortification potentially cannot. Growing more nutritious versions of everyday food crops is a simple, sustainable and cost-effective solution that does not place any undue burden on farmers. These biofortified crops are also widely accepted by consumers, as extensive research is done to ensure the crops look and taste similar to the traditional varieties.
HarvestPlus has spent the past 14 years working with leading research institutes to prove that biofortified crops, which contain greater quantities of vitamin A, iron and zinc than standard varieties, can reach communities that need them.
In India, iron-biofortified pearl millet provides children with 70 percent of daily iron requirements. More than a million Indian farmers have embraced the more nutritious variety, which is also high yielding and drought tolerant, providing farmers with a more stable income while simultaneously bolstering their family’s nutrition.
 
Biofortified beans
A study of iron-deficient women between the ages of 18 and 27 in Rwanda proved that eating biofortified beans high in iron reversed iron deficiency in just four-and-a-half months. In a region plagued by hot weather and drought, iron beans present the added benefit of being high yielding, drought resistant and heat tolerant.
Countries across the world are already embracing the science of biofortification. The government of Zambia launched a campaign to get schools to grow and feed their students vitamin A-biofortified orange maize, while Brazil is distributing biofortified crops to schools through its states’ school feeding programs.
In Uganda, five iron-rich bean varieties were released last year as part of the government’s strategy to tackle malnutrition and reduce anemia, especially in children and expectant mothers. These countries, among many others, have chosen to implement a proven, cost-effective solution to address micronutrient deficiency and they are relying on international organizations like the United Nations to provide additional support.
Earlier this year, HarvestPlus made a public commitment to work with UN agencies and member states to be part of the decade of action on nutrition. In line with our commitment, we are calling on all governments and institutions to help us scale up the introduction of biofortified foods by bridging the gap that exists between agriculture and nutrition.
If we can work with the UN, national governments and farming communities to encourage the adoption of this breakthrough innovation, we can help lift one billion people out of poverty and hidden hunger just by providing access to a diverse and nutritious diet.
 
Bev Postma is a policy expert in international food systems, nutrition and food security. She is the CEO of HarvestPlus, USA

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