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Opinion |

Eat once a day in a house in Africa: Food security or insecurity?

by Davy Louvouezo

Representative of Congo-CCOD, Médecins D'Afrique.

Central Africa offers the pale face of the subregions of the continent, where the proportion of households who eat once a day is one of the highest. Tha paradox is that eating properly according to the rules and food safety standards required remains a mystery. That is why all indicators are mostly about acute and chronic malnutrition.

Eating once a day for a family of at least 3-4 mouths is a daily challenge for ordinary people in the Central African subregion. Ordeal, not to say hell! Because it is easy to decide to eat, but in the end is like health: it’s priceless, but has a cost.

Central Africa offers the pale face of the subregions of the continent, where the proportion of households who eat once a day is one of the highest. Tha paradox is that eating properly according to the rules and food safety standards required remains a  mystery. That is why all indicators are mostly about acute and chronic malnutrition.

Food insecurity, let’s say, has never been ranked among the aspects that may occupy the minds of ordinary intellectual elites or governments in Africa. So much so that the negative and harmful effects of food insecurity -which is responsible of at least half of all child deaths in the world, especially in Central Africa fails even to upset the most brilliant minds and lights of modernity.

Although all African countries in general and Central Africa in particular, have joined 186 other countries to support the goal of the World Food Summit (WFS) which has taken the decision to halve for 2015, the number of people suffering from chronic hunger, reduce hunger and increase food security, today after 21 years, the tragic and infernal image of Pandora’s boxes is offered, which until now have indefinitely postponed a range of initiatives to improve access to healthy, safe and nutritious food that they have agreed to make available to its ordinary citizens, especially the countries of the subregion of Central Africa.

Nutritional insecurity is like any infectious disease, however, it is not a mere infection as it leaves, in millions of survivors, lasting consequences in the form of disability, vulnerability to chronic illness, intellectual disabilities. Threat to women, families and entire societies, is a significant violation of children’s rights. Long regarded as a consequence of poverty, it is increasingly recognized as a cause. This is a global crisis, however, it has not aroused much concern in public opinion.

Food insecurity, a new Pandora’s box, which continues to cast its problems every day in the lives of children who do not eat enough to satisfy immediate hunger can still fight.

Moreover, the countries of Central Africa are among African countries where disposable income and per capita food supplies are lower and between those in which the real cost of food is high and the proportion of income spent food for the poor is the most mediocre. A careful economic management is not sufficient to regional governments in Central Africa to maintain a national social safety net. The traditional values of social justice normally do not support the exclusivity and gender equality, while the active participation of civil society in social, political and economic reform also helps ensure the public interest in food safety issues.

Eat once a day is also an emergency largely invisible. Three quarters of the children who die from causes related to malnutrition suffer moderate or mild forms, which are not accompanied by any outward sign.

Eating once a day leads to all: sometimes flying into a thousand pieces the logic that prescirbes to wait forever for the good gods of fair redistribution of GDP, sometimes to reverse the bastions of a tropical Versailles. Hungry stomachs have their own evidence to screw up their deafness. People do not know that the saints aren’t the blacksmiths that shape their uneven and ragged destiny .

Ensure that families are able to eat is to have love to wage a good fight tirelessly against famines, wars and other disasters that are responsible for only a small part of malnutrition. But subregionales crises – as today in the Great Lakes region in central Africa, they are often the cause of the most serious form of chronic food insecurity.

Food insecurity of children does not only happen every day in low-income households. In some homes higher or lower income, the growing disparity between the number of times you eat and the concomitant reduction in social benefits have worrying effects on the nutritional well-being of children.

All experts have unanimously known for a long time that vitamin A deficiency, which affects some 100 million children worldwide, is one of the main causes of blindness. But they argue, we see more and more too, even moderately, that this deficiency affects the immune system, lowers resistance to diarrhea, which affects 2.2 million children each year, and measles, which kills nearly a million a year.

The food security of households is defined as sustainable access to food in sufficient quantity and to ensure that all family members have an adequate diet and a healthy lifestyle quality. Household food security depends on access to food, unlike food availability. Even if the market is full of products a family too poor to buy does not enjoy food security.

In short, if the food security indicators, such as the physical availability of food, economic and physical access to food, food use and stability of these other indicators over time came mainly missing in homes, even if the food intake is adequate today in these families, in most cases they would still be considered at risk of becoming insecure and at risk of deterioration of their nutritional status.