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Doctors taking on malnutrition win World Food Prize

'It's not about how to feed our world. It's about how to nourish our world.'

Working with the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, Lawrence Haddad meets in 2017 with girls in a Bangladeshi village. (Photo supplied by World Food Prize)
Working with the Bangladesh Rural Advancement Committee and the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition, Lawrence Haddad meets in 2017 with girls in a Bangladeshi village. (Photo supplied by World Food Prize)
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Malnutrition is the “challenge of our time,” with diet-related disease afflicting almost every country, winners of a $250,000 World Food Prize said Monday.

Drs. David Nabarro and Lawrence Haddad, who jointly were awarded this year’s prize by the Des Moines-based organization, are credited with cutting the number of stunted children in the world by 10 million by lobbying governments and donors to improve nutrition.

Stunting is caused by malnutrition in infancy and hinders cognitive as well as physical growth. Experts say the effects largely are irreversible and stunted children generally complete fewer years of schooling and earn less as adults.

Malnourished children also tend to become malnourished mothers, perpetuating the cycle, said Haddad, who heads the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition.

On the other hand, obesity rates in other parts of the world are skyrocketing.

“People can’t get enough nutritious food because it’s too expensive or unavailable and the stuff that they shouldn’t be eating a lot of, stuff that’s high in sugar, salt and fat, is really cheap and available,” he said.

“This is the big challenge of our time. It’s not about how to feed our world. It’s about how to nourish our world.”

Nabarro, the co-winner, is a British doctor and former U.N. special representative for Food Security and Nutrition.

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Between them they have persuaded governments, donors and others to set up policies and programs that decreased the number of stunted children globally to 155 million in 2017 from 165 million in 2012, the World Food Prize organizers said.

Nabarro said good nutrition in the first 1,000 days from conception to a child’s second birthday was “absolutely key.”

“There is work still to be done to get a widespread understanding of the importance of the right kind of diet,” he said.

About 815 million of the world’s 7.6 billion people go hungry daily while 2 billion are overweight or obese, according to the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organization.

The winners were honored in a ceremony at the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The prize will be presented this October in Des Moines on or around the U.S. World Food Day. The presentation is part of a weeklong series of events that includes the annual Iowa Hunger Summit,

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