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Malnutrition -- Living hungrily ever after

Hunger is a two-sided coin. It refers simultaneously to that which is visible and can be subjectively and objectively viewed, and that which is hidden. This less-visible hunger is known as 'hidden hunger' or chronic malnutrition. Every two minutes thirteen children worldwide die of the consequences of hidden hunger before they are five years old.

Year for year, it is hidden hunger, not the physical torture of starvation, which is responsible for the deaths of millions of men, women and children. In the new book Hidden Hunger, Hans K. Biesalski describes in plain language and with moving examples how hidden hunger affects human health long before malnutrition becomes obvious. Even in developed countries, the potential negative consequences of hidden hunger on long-term health are often overlooked and underestimated.

Hans Biesalski says, "Hidden hunger is a perpetually harmful situation, which is neither felt by those who suffer from it, nor does it prevent its victims from surviving and carrying on in their impoverished state of existence. For every starved child, there are ten children suffering from hidden hunger and each of whom may ultimately die of starvation at any time, as well. Herein lies the real tragedy, namely that we only focus our attention on those who did not make it and not on the ones who perhaps still have a chance."

Chronic malnutrition is at the core of the global hunger challenge facing science, politics, and economics. The book Hidden Hunger is an urgent call to action. As poverty is the main reason for hidden hunger, addressing this dire challenge requires long-term policies. Land grabbing and climate change seriously counteract many efforts to overcome hidden hunger. Biesalski suggests investment in agriculture and in particular in small-scale farmers to improve subsistence farming are among the approaches to reach a sustainable solution.

Hans K. Biesalski is head of the department of biochemistry and nutrition and managing director of the Food Security Center at the University of Hohenheim in Germany. He is a member of numerous advisory and expert groups for the World Health Organization (WHO), the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the Global Forum on Food Security and Nutrition.

Contact: Joan Robinson

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