5 Reasons how Climate Change is driving Malnutrition and Obesity at the same time

Climate change is leading us towards malnutrition and obesity

Did you have your delicious meals today? Yes! Then you are lucky. You are lucky than the other poor people suffering from hunger near you who do not have even the basic needs of regular nutritious food fulfilled, making them vulnerable to malnutrition, wasting (degradation of fat and muscle tissue), malaria, diarrhea and other unwanted problems.  

About every 10, 1 individual is suffering from hunger! And even more suffering is because of the climate change taking place especially in developing countries like India. Another statistics which supports this is the Global Hunger Index (GHI), where India was ranked 95 in 2010 which further deteriorated to 102 Rank in 2019 which clearly indicates that India’s condition worsened and is most vulnerable to climate and least ready to cope up with.

Also as estimated by World Food Programme (WFP), COVID-19 pandemic can double the no. of people i.e additional 130 million, suffering from hunger by the end of 2020.

You see how huge the number is! Are you thinking but how is it going to bother me?! Have a look at the next question.

Do you think the food you had is healthy and nutritious? Well, as of now more than 1 in 8 adults is obese. But very soon due to climate change where we won’t be able to have access to healthy and nutritious food, the no. might increase.

This problem is so grave that it has got its seat among 17 Sustainable Development Goal (SDGs) given by United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). So to achieve SDG 2: Zero Hunger measures are being taken to end hunger by 2030 ensuring people, especially poor and vulnerable communities, that they get nutritious and sufficient food on regular basis. Also to ensure that the food quality is not deteriorated by uncertain weather conditions such as floods and droughts and other natural disasters occurring due to climate change which can lead to malnutrition in poor population and obesity in better off communities. But is it achievable?

Source:  https://sdgs.un.org/sites/default/files/2020-07/The-Sustainable-Development-Goals-Report-2020_Page_09.png

To answer this you will have to understand how climate change affects hunger.

1) Temperature Increase

Climate change occurs due to the elevated levels of carbon dioxide, heat trapping gas, leading to high temperature. In some cases high levels of carbon dioxide may increase the growth of plants but at the same time due to limited water and nutrients available for plants, there is a chance of production of toxins due to fungal growth which is supported by high temperature causing liver cancer. And which has already happened in Africa.

 Also during drought maize, beans and cassava crops respond to high temperature by flooding themselves with nitrates and hydrogen cyanide, chemicals when consumed can cost lives of humankind and livestock. Similarly there can be seen decrease in protein, nitrogen content and micronutrient concentration like zinc (Zn) and iron (Fe) in cereals and legume crops, pulses, wheat, rice and soya bean plants leading to quality loss.

This quality loss can lead to deficiency in poor causing health and development issues and also hinder cognitive abilities such as logical reasoning, long term memory, sustained attention, auditory and visual processing, etc. The deficiency in micronutrients (Zn and Fe) can cause stunted growth, reduced reproduction and cell metabolism. And when this food is consumed you know the consequences, right! No nutrition = Malnutrition

Also most of the vector borne pathogens emerges in warm temperature. So these vector borne diseases lower the capacity to utilize the food effectively which means more people will suffer from malaria, chikungunya due to poor sanitation, unavailability of pure drinking water, and drainage system and health facilities in urban poor living in informal settlements. And thus it will further lead us away from the Zero Hunger goal.

The people dependent on fish will also have to face issues, as due to high temperature the fish life cycle gets disturbed and the migration period suffers due to which the whole ecosystem is under threat. Also high water temperature in seas and oceans make water more susceptible to invasive species in Coral Eel grass and Abalone. This high temperature having way more carbon dioxide makes the water acidic, causing the fish to die, also known as ‘Ocean Acidification’. Thus, leading to less fish availability.

But on the other side, owing to less nutrition people will consume more in order to get the required nutritional benefits, which will lead to consuming more calories, resulting in obesity. So here, No nutrition = Obesity

This quality loss in grains and forage can also reduce the ability of pasture and rangeland which support grazing livestock. Also high temperature makes animals prone to diseases, reduces fertility and hence reduces quantity and quality of milk produced.

Increase in temperature also leads to contamination of food at a faster rate.

2) Weather Conditions

Due to variable temperature and weather conditions, crops are more prone to frequent natural disasters such as storm, drought, floods, earthquake, etc which leads to crop failure i.e. less food production.

These weather conditions also make it impossible for food distribution in various places especially in vulnerable areas where poor communities are living.

3) Increase in market cost

As the food (staple food, fish, milk) production and distribution will be low it will lead to high demand. High demand will result in high cost price making it unaffordable for the poor people driving them further away from Zero Hunger goal. High cost = No food

On the other hand, people who afford to buy food will have to pay high cost to get the calories. No nutrition = Obesity

4) No Agriculture

As farmers fail to know the best time to grow their crops due to changing temperature and weather conditions (flood and drought), the food production decreases and thus the farmer’s income is at loss. Now as farming is becoming more expensive, agriculture becomes more difficult for people working in field and small farm owners making it difficult for them to cope up with the loss. Thus farmers will find it more convenient to give up agriculture and find other source of income for their family. No agriculture = No food

5) Women and Children are Vulnerable

Women especially in developing countries do not get education so they earn their livelihood mainly by doing physical tasks in farming, construction, factories, selling food in markets, etc. for minimal money and thus they have no appropriate tools to adapt to increase in temperature making them vulnerable to heat stroke and other problems.

Whereas higher education leads to good paying jobs which ensure that people can adapt to changing temperature and can revive in various disasters such as flood, cyclone, earthquake, drought, etc due to adequate money.

Also the malnutrition in baby starts right from mother’s womb. So if the mother in the first thousand days i.e. since the baby is in the womb till two years of birth is not having nutritious food, the baby will be under-nourished.

Now as we have come to the end of the blog I hope I have answered all the questions. And you will be able to judge better whether the SDG 2: Zero Hunger is achievable or not! Do let me know in the comments what do you think about it?!

Also please let me know if I have missed out on any points and suggestions are welcome.

Take away: Restrict eating non-vegetarian meals especially red meat as it is responsible for CO2 emissions. Instead shift to plant based food.

Also there is a good news that as of now we have abundant food to feed the hungry if only we stop wasting our food.

Next time when you find excess food you can send it to us at Robin Hood Army

https://robinhoodarmy.com/volunteer-sign-up

And if this is not available in your city you can even send it to Feeding India, where the food is distributed among the needy.

https://www.feedingindia.org/volunteer

All you have to do is register yourself and you will be referenced to the Whatsapp group as per your city. It’s that simple!

You can also find me on LinkedIn. I would be more than happy to connect.

https://www.linkedin.com/in/ashwini-h-68a3431a1/

References

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