Malnutrition Is One Of Our Most Pressing Health Crises. Here’s What Can Be Done About It

I have long been an advocate for the integration of nutritional programming across all health care services and settings within my native Haiti, a country with the highest rate of childhood malnutrition in the Western Hemisphere. As a doctor, and, now, a new father, I am especially concerned for the well-being of Haiti’s children in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew.

It is no secret that natural disasters like Hurricane Matthew and the 2010 earthquake place our communities in imminent danger. But it is the myriad social, economic, governmental and public health challenges that extend that danger for years to come, leaving communities vulnerable to all manner of crises.

Our children, particularly those under the age of 5, are made especially vulnerable by such disasters. In the hurricane’s wake, road closures are now preventing the delivery of critical disaster relief and emergency supplies, including healthy foods. Proper nutrition immediately following disasters is vital to maintaining good health, especially when hygiene is compromised and disease is prevalent.

Huge hurricane Matthew at night near Florida. Matthew made landfall in Haiti, Cuba, and the South East US.
Huge hurricane Matthew at night near Florida. Matthew made landfall in Haiti, Cuba, and the South East US.

Malnutrition in childhood is not only responsible for immediate health issues ― it can also have a significant socioeconomic impact on the child, the family and the community. Impeded physical and cognitive development, along with increased susceptibility to infection and disease ― all long-term effects of malnutrition ― prevent children from reaching their full potential. Consequently, this limits their access to educational opportunities and their earning potential. Ultimately, poor nutrition during the critical window of a child’s development perpetuates the cycle of malnutrition and poverty across generations.

With that perspective of global health equity in mind, I am proud to call out my work as part Vitamin Angels, a U.S.-based nonprofit charitable organization that strives to connect at-risk communities with nutritional support. Vitamin Angels specifically works to combat malnutrition through the provision of micronutrient supplementation for pregnant women, nursing mothers, and children under five. Currently serving over 48 million mothers and children in underserved communities across a portfolio of 54 countries around the world, Vitamin Angels is able to provide low-cost high-impact interventions such as vitamin A supplementation and prenatal vitamins, in part, thanks to corporate partners, like Walgreens. In partnership with Walgreens, Vitamin Angels has been able to provide more than 100 Million children with vitamins since 2013.

Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.<i></i>
Port-Au-Prince, Haiti.

Now, as a father, I feel even more committed to my mission. I know that the health and well-being of my daughter’s generation greatly depends on how we nourish and support children, starting during pregnancy and continuing throughout their key developmental years. Even in the aftermath of Hurricane Matthew, my wife and I are beyond fortunate to have access to resources to secure proper nutrition for our baby, but for many families both in Haiti and around the world, this is not the case. Together, we can turn challenge into opportunity for children in Haiti, and around the world.

Malnutrition is a global health crisis, particularly for children and pregnant women ― and together, Walgreens and Vitamin Angels® are helping address this crisis. By shopping at Walgreens, you’ll help provide vitamins that may prevent blindness and other serious conditions in undernourished children around the world. For each purchase of participating vitamin or supplement products, Walgreens will donate 1 percent to Vitamin Angels until December 31, 2017.