Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, January 24th, 2018

Unfortunate Consequence of Child Hunger

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Unfortunate Consequence of Child Hunger

Chronic child hunger caused epidemic of behavior problems and learning disorders in our children both schools, Universities and communities. While treatment of these hidden challenges is very costly for our society - not only in terms of the financial cost, but also in terms of emotional cost on the future generation. No attention is focused on diet and nutrition for the treatment and prevention of these tragic conditions in Afghanistan! Social and political daily occurrence caused to forget some fundamental topics, and discussions on the mental and emotional development of children ignore the fact that brain is a very important organ of the body, and just like every other organ of the body, it requires good nutrition. And when we talk about the brain, we also need to talk about the second brain, the small intestine, where digestion and assimilation take place. The brain looks like guts, and they have similar interrelated effects in many ways. For example, there are just as many nerve cells in the gut as there are in the brain, and most of the nerve cells in the gut connect with the brain.
So, the nutritional requirements of brain and guts need to be considered together when we talk about emotional and mental health of our children, the future of Afghanistan. And we need to have this conversation very soon because we are facing an incredible crisis, have never seen before in the history of mankind. Some children are damaged so profoundly that they cannot even make emotional contact with their parents and their siblings. And also we have thousands of children who are retarded due to iodine deficiencies and malnourishment. But these retarded individuals could express emotions. Today the horrible condition called autism along with other manifestation of brain starvation such as learning disorders, mental problems, and inability to concentrate behavior problems, violence, addiction and mental retardation threaten the fabric of our culture.
Research shows that many children who do not have enough to eat wind up with diminished capacity to understand and learn. Quality of food and certain nutrients such as vitamins A, D, B12 and K2 are the most critical factors for the brain to form, to develop and to function properly, for good mental health and for nervous system to function normally, and deficiencies manifest as psychiatric disorders, such as obsessive-compulsive behavior, irrational anger, depression, manic depression, Alzheimer’s and dementia.  And where do we get these nutrients? Do we get them from vegetable oils? No, do we get them from imported chemicals? No, do we get them from margarine? Only a little bit of synthetic vitamin A added to the margarine. We get them from the fat of grass-fed animals–the very food that are disappearing from our daily food items. Also, scarcity of nutrients such as iron and iodine can impair cognitive and motor development, and these effects are often irreversible. Iodine deficiency can lead to enlargement of the thyroid and irreparable mental retardation in infants and children whose mothers were iodine deficient during pregnancy. , chlorine, folic acid, and zinc, to name just a few—have been linked specifically to early brain functioning.
The deeper burning effects of most nutrient shortages depend on the extent and duration of the shortage, and in many cases, the brain’s need for a particular nutrient changes throughout its development. Early shortages can reduce cell production; later shortages can affect cell size and complexity. Nutrient deficits also affect the complex chemical processes of the brain and can lead to less efficient communication between brain cells.
Close to a billion people – one-eighth of the world’s population – still live in hunger. Each year 2 million children die through malnutrition. This is happening at a time when doctors in some countries are warning of the spread of obesity; even go so far as their estimated one billion dogs are prioritized than starving innocent children throughout the world and they have better access to food, health and life facilities. In fact, there are genuinely sufficient resources on the earth to ensure that no one, nowhere, at no time, should go hungry. The numbers of hungers are as many as the number of oppressing rulers.
It is time now that we must act together, as a united people for the birth of a new Afghanistan and new world. Let there be justice for all. Let there be peace for all. Let there be work, bread, water for all. Thousands of neighbors go to bed hungry. It may be our child's schoolmate who is undernourished and has difficulty learning on an empty stomach due to unemployment. Or it could be our co-worker, a mother who lost her husband. Perhaps it's an elderly neighbor who has to make a decision whether to delay filling a prescription or buying groceries.
Eventually, having happy, healthy and well-nourished children depend to having enough, healthy and secure food. We will need to combat poverty, support our natural livestocks, train food experts and raise mass awareness. Citizens must be aware that the burning consequences of malnourishments are mentally retarded, unhealthy and poor generation. They must know that pregnancy and infancy are important periods for the formation of the brain, laying the foundation for the devel­opment of cognitive, motor, and socio-emotional skills throughout childhood and adulthood. Children with restricted development of these skills during early life are at risk for later neuropsychologi­cal problems, poor school achievement, early school dropout, low-skilled employ­ment, and poor care of their own children, thus contributing to the intergenerational transmission of poverty.

Mohammad Zahir Akbari is the newly emerging writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mohammadzahirakbari@ gmail.com

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