How to Seize the Opportunity to a Life-time of Health?


How to Seize the Opportunity to a Life-time of Health?

Wealth, reputation and health are probably what most adults seek and pursue but children do not have such ability. In fact, some children cannot even secure their own survival because their lives are at stake and they must depend on their families and societies.

Many adults like to set long term goals, like 5 or 10-year goals, but for children, if they do not achieve that one goal – a healthy early development – in the first decade of their lives, they may live a rough life for the decades to come.

According to The Millennium Development Goals Report 2015, populations living in extreme poverty (people who survive on less than HK$10 a day) have significantly decreased by more than half, from 47% in 1990 to 14% in 2015. However, there are still over 800 million people living on less than HK$10 a day and close to 800 million people living in hunger. These are real people, not just numbers, including vulnerable children who are still growing and developing.

Holistic Growth for Children

World Vision’s vision is for every child to experience life in all its fullness. To realise this vision, children’s physical well-being must be ensured so that they can grow healthily and unleash their full potential to reach their dreams. Every day, World Vision teams, around the world, deliver their best strategies and solutions to assist and protect children of all ages, as partners in the difficult journey from birth to adulthood. We believe that holistic well-being of children is an achievable goal. Our child well-being aspirations are children:

  • Enjoy good health: Improve children’s health in the long run
  • Are educated for life: Empower children to strive for a better future
  • Experience love: Children learn to love and be loved
  • Are cared for, protected and participating: Provide a safe environment for children to grow with dignity

Since 2010, World Vision has applied a measurement framework for these aspirations, each with four global child well-being targets: 1) Children aged 12 to 18 report an increased level of well-being; 2) Increase protection from infection and disease for children aged zero to five; 3) Increase in children who are well nourished (0-5 years); and 4) Increase in children who can read by age 11 or end of primary schooling. This year, Vision Voice’s Features will focus on these aspirations by looking at World Vision’s projects – how our work puts children in focus, helps them live life to the full and how it benefits their families and communities.

Is Mission Nutrition an Impossible Mission?

In Hong Kong, parents are greatly concerned about their children’s health; preparing wholesome meals for them to ensure children have sufficient nutrition intake every day for healthy growth. Globally, one in every nine people is malnourished. Malnutrition is a result of poor quality and/or quantity of food; and it can be rooted from food insecurity, culture, poverty, poor health condition, unclean water and poor hygiene. Malnutrition remains a fundamental obstacle to children’s survival and well-being. It increases a child’s risk of dying in the first few years of life, as well as making children vulnerable to infectious diseases such as diarrhoea, respiratory infections and malaria. Undernutrition accounts for an estimated 45 per cent of all deaths of children under 5.

In developing countries, parents try their best but are helpless to provide nutritious food for their children. Like Alice from Gitega province of Burundi who finds it hard to put food on the table. She is a labourer who works for others by tilling their land. Alice earns less than HK$8 a day for her labour, but sometimes if an employer is not generous enough, she may earn less than HK$3 a day. Like other members of her community, Alice cannot provide enough food for her children, so it is very rare for Elyse, Alice’s 3-year-old son, to eat breakfast.

Alice’s daily routine is to wake up early in the morning, carry Elyse on her back, then carry a hoe on her shoulder and go looking for work. Since she does not have enough food to feed her children with, she always tries to get a hunger killer – a piece of sweet potato wrapped in banana leaves for her son. Occasionally, she may be lucky to find an avocado. Alice knows that this is not enough for her son, especially at his age when Elyse needs nutritious food for healthy growth. Yet, this little snack can stop her child from crying so she can work.

Elyse rarely eats meat or eggs. His mother doesn’t remember the last time her son ate eggs or meat. When she receives her salary, the first thing she buys is food that can fill Elyse’s empty stomach. Most of the time, she buys sweet potatoes because they are cheaper in the area. Though Elyse likes to eat beans and vegetables, his diet is mainly sweet potatoes because beans or vegetables are too expensive and unaffordable.

Alice wishes she could have small livestock like chickens or rabbits to raise, then she would be able to respond to family emergencies. She could sell a chicken in order to bring her children to a health facility if they fall ill or she could feed her children eggs for a balanced diet. Another great wish of Alice is to see her children going to school and graduate. However, her biggest immediate challenge is to provide nutritious meals for her children so they can grow up well and healthy.

What Hungry Kids eat for Breakfast

Hong Kong’s parents make sure their children have a proper breakfast before they are off to school. Let’s take a look at what children from the other side of the world eat for breakfast.

In South Sudan, after a night of rumbling stomach, Nyagon sits quietly waiting for her mom to prepare breakfast.

Nyagon’s mother pours hot tea into a glass and passes it to her daughter. Some days, this is all Nyagon has for breakfast, on other days, she has nothing.

Twin brothers Chan and Ngor in South Sudan share a bowl of maize porridge prepared by their mother.

In less than two minutes, the bowl is emptied. But it is hardly enough for the growing boys.

In Burundi, Elyse rarely gets to have breakfast, his mother often just gives him a piece of sweet potato to eat.

Alice carries some sweet potato slices to soothe Elyse’s hunger.

The status of women’s nutrition is just as important as that of children, because their health condition directly affects their children’s health condition. Women constitute half the world’s population but in many parts of the world, they are more likely to go hungry more frequently than men. Hunger deprives mothers of energy they need to care for their children, and malnourished mothers often give birth to unhealthy babies who are likely to be underweight or die. One in every six children in developing countries is underweight. A lack of sufficient nutrition over a long period of time, in young children, can affect body and brain development and such children are more prone to recurrent illnesses as their bodies are weak; that is why nutritious food is critical to a child’s healthy growth.

Hunger does not only weigh on individuals, it also imposes a heavy economic burden on the developing world. For children who survive, chronic undernutrition has adverse consequences on income and productivity, as a result, they and their families continue to be trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty and hunger.

Fighting Hunger & Nutrition Globally

A foundational aspect of World Vision’s work is fighting hunger and malnutrition by implementing various food security programmes around the world, including:

  • Emergency Food Aid: During disasters and other food crises, World Vision provides immediate food aid to help people get through the worst days and save the lives of children and other vulnerable groups. When the situation improves, we continue to help communities recover and build their capacity to provide food for themselves and their families.
  • Dealing with Climate Change: Since many people in developing countries are subsistence farmers, our programmes help them with agricultural inputs, such as drought-resistant seeds, crop diversity and rotation techniques, livestock farming, and water retention and irrigation. These measures help families to make the best climate-smart improvements for their long-term food security, while minimising soil erosion, water loss, and other harmful results.
  • Food Supply: We facilitate local farmers groups to market their crops and organise crop storage to take advantage of pricing and discounts, while eliminating middlemen and product loss. In addition, mothers and fathers learn about cooking nutritious meals, using locally available foods with new preparation techniques, so children are better nourished. Loans and business training also provide capital for members to implement their business ideas – such as owning a small store or making furniture – to stabilise their livelihoods.

In addition, World Vision takes a series of approaches to address undernutrition, such as promotion of breastfeeding practices; improving nutrition behaviours through individual counselling and group sessions; growth monitoring and promotion; community management of severe acute malnutrition; more secure access to food quantity, quality and diversity for households; improving crop and animal production; and providing access to savings and loans.

7-11 for Mothers and Children

At the heart of World Vision’s Global Health and Nutrition Strategy is a package of preventive interventions targeted at mothers and children. There are seven interventions for mothers from pregnancy to post-pregnancy and 11 interventions for children under 2 years old, aimed at strengthening existing community-level structures and assets, building the capacity of families and communities to prevent and manage maternal and child malnutrition.

7-11 Approach

Maternal Health

  1. Adequate diet
  2. Iron/folate supplements
  3. Tetanus toxoid immunisation
  4. Malaria prevention, treatment access and intermittent preventive treatment
  5. Healthy timing and spacing of pregnancy
  6. Deworming
  7. Facilitate access to quality maternal health services: prenatal and postnatal check-up, attended delivery, preventive measure of mother-to-child transmission, HIV/Sexual transmitted infections screening

Child Health (0-24 months)

  1. Appropriate breastfeeding
  2. Essential new-born care
  3. Handwashing with soap
  4. Appropriate complementary feeding (6-24 months)
  5. Adequate Iron
  6. Vitamin A supplementation
  7. Oral rehydration therapy/Zinc
  8. Care seeking and treatment for acute respiratory infection
  9. Full immunisation for age
  10. Prevention of malaria
  11. Deworming (+12 months)

Click to learn more about the 7-11 Approach

Nourishing Children

Targeting children under 5 who suffer from acute malnutrition, World Vision uses the Community-based Management of Acute Malnutrition (CMAM) approach. Acute malnutrition is usually caused by a sudden lack of food – often due to a drought or other natural disasters. The tell-tale sign is wasting, measured by low weight in relation to height. Without sufficient food, a child’s body uses energy stored in fat – eventually causing the body to break down.

World Vision staff or volunteers monitor the nutrition condition of children in their communities to identify severe acute malnourished children under 5. CMAM encourages home-based treatment by providing a cost-effective intervention using ready-to-use therapeutic food – Plumpy’nut. It looks and tastes like peanut butter. Plumpy’nut is frequently used for treatment of emergency malnutrition cases. When administered regularly, Plumpy’nut can help acutely malnourished children recover in a matter of weeks. Meanwhile, World Vision staff or volunteers work with parents to improve feeding practice and provide a balanced diet for their children. From 2013 to 2015, over 500,000 children have been treated through World Vision’s CMAM programmes.

With the right food and sufficient nutrients, children can enjoy a worry-free childhood; a healthy body gives them the opportunity to realise their dreams. Today, malnutrition is still the most serious yet curable health problem in the world. We must not give up our fight to end hunger so no more precious lives of under-5 children will be lost to malnourishment!

Kolkata – the City of Joy and Hope

[Words from CEO] In Kolkata, in a slum, the morning spent chatting with Sujit and Khushboo gives me a lot of joy and hope.

How Sitara Reaches Full Potential

[Child Sponsorship] “My father used to motivate me a lot to study. He named me ‘Sitara’ which translates as ‘star’.”

Zimbabwe: Water Revives

[World Watch] Last Christmas, the community of Rushinga received a wonderful gift – accessing clean water from a tap.

Mozambique: Food for Education is a Holistic Catalyst

[World Watch] “I was often sad and hungry at school so my performance was poor,” says Teresa.

2016 Relief Work Report

In 2016, World Vision Hong Kong raised over HK$39.35 million to respond to emergencies.