Food & Water

 In A Changing Planet, Environmental Health, Health & Wellbeing

Improved Health Outcomes Through Food Security and Water Safety

Jenny Dengler, PA-C


Food, water, fire and shelter are core requirements of survival. Without water an individual will succumb to death within 3 days and lack of food will lead to death in approximately 3 weeks. In order to thrive and have the mental and physical capabilities to meet daily requirements for life an individual needs adequate hydration and nutrients. Countries that are not able to meet these food and water needs for their citizens are generally poverty stricken and have poor academic performance. Individuals in these countries do not have the nutrient-dense foods to maintain energy in order to contribute to society and children succumb to illness due to malnutrition and are unable to actively participate in education. If countries want to see economic growth and stability it will be imperative to have adequate nutritional resources for productive, healthy citizens.

Currently, there IS sufficient food production and agriculture to support the global population with an estimated 2,350 calories per person (Seitz & Hite, 2012). However, the food supply is not equally distributed and wealthy countries see an excess of food, while developing nations fail to meet the needs of their citizens. The UN Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) reported that 30 countries globally are in need of external assistance because of crop failures, conflict, natural disasters, or high domestic costs to food (Seitz & Hite, 2012).



Currently, there is an estimated 795 million people globally who are undernourished, with the majority residing in developing nations (UN, 2016). In regards to children, 45% of deaths under the age of 5 can be attributed to poor nutrition (UN, 2016). Children also face stunted growth, poor academic performance, and poor health due to undernutrition (UN, 2016). The Sustainable Development Goals hope to end hunger and provide adequate access to safe, nutritious, and sufficient food to all people all year, end stunting and wasting in children, address nutritional needs of girls, pregnant, and lactating women, double agricultural productivity through sustainable measures, as well as many other measures surrounding food production, distribution, and consumerism by 2030 (UN, 2016). A major contributor in reaching these goals by 2030 is The World Food Program (WFP). WFP is the largest humanitarian agency fighting world hunger with a mission to end global hunger (WFP, 2016). The WFP supports national, regional, and local food security and nutrition plan to ensure that the poorest and most vulnerable individuals have access to nutritious food (WFP, 2016). The WFP is in partnership with UN agencies, international organizations, NGOs, and the private sector in order to impart policy and change to meet food needs. The main strategic plan provides a framework for WFP operations to end world hunger by 2017. The plan has four main objectives; save lives and protect livelihoods in emergencies, support food security and nutrition, reduce risk and enable people, communities and countries to meet their own food and nutrition needs, and reduce undernutrition and break the intergenerational cycle of hunger (WFP, 2016).



Access to clean water is a problem across many nations from developed nations facing drought and developing nations without access. Water is essential for health and longevity. It is estimated that the average amount of water needed by each individual is 4-5 gallons daily, this includes water for consumption, food preparation, hygiene, and laundering (Jacobsen, 2014). Many developing nations face issues with quality, clean drinking water which means there is an increased risk of diarrheal diseases as well as spread of infectious diseases, parasites, and viruses (Jacobsen, 2014). Furthermore, many countries struggle with keeping sanitation and bathing separate from drinking water thereby increasing the risks of disease. Another issue with access is the proximity of water to individuals. Ideally, safe drinking water should be within one kilometer of a home, however, many countries have individuals walking many kilometers in harsh, violent environments in order to procure water for the day (Jacobsen, 2014).  Lastly, the water source needs to be reliable and functioning (Jacobsen, 2014). In regards to water access, it is important to factor in quality, quantity, proximity, and reliability when assessing country-specific needs as well as environmental resources. Globally 663 million are still without access to drinking water, 1.8 billion are consuming fecally contaminated water, and 1.7 billion people live on river basins where water consumption exceeds repletion (UN, 2015). Furthermore, sanitation services are suboptimal and 80% of wastewater is put into rivers, streams, oceans without pollution removal which is greatly affecting the water ecology especially when one considers the amount of pharmaceuticals now entering the water sources (UN, 2015). Over 80% of diseases in developing nations is directly related to poor sanitation and unsafe drinking water and over 750,000 children under the age of 5 die each year due to diarrheal diseases (UN, 2014). The United Nations currently has various initiatives in place to aid with sanitation and improved water sources. The End Open Defecation campaign was launched in May of 2014 and has a goal of improving access to toilets and latrines for 2.5 billion people (UN, 2014). Through the sustainable development goals, by 2030, globally we should see universal access to safe and affordable drinking water, adequate sanitation and hygiene, end of open defecation, improved access for females, improved water quality, reduction in pollution as well as untreated wastewater, improve sustainability and water resource management, and protect ecosystems (UN, 2015). Through these various channels of water resource management, there should be a decrease in infectious disease mortality and morbidity in the young population as well as decreasing the vulnerable female population and ensuring that all people have access to safe, quality water and improved sanitation practices.

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