- Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Alarmed by the vast numbers of malnourished children in the world, two British men have spent their lives working to ensure that mothers and their young children can obtain high-quality foods and vitamins.

This month, the men — economist Dr. Lawrence Haddad and physician Dr. David Nabarro — will be honored with the prestigious 2018 World Food Prize.

The men will split a $250,000 prize as part of an award envisioned decades ago as the “Nobel Prize of Food and Agriculture” by its late founder, legendary agricultural scientist Dr. Norman E. Borlaug.

In a June 25 announcement about the laureates, Ambassador Kenneth M. Quinn, president of the World Food Prize, praised Dr. Haddad and Dr. Nabarro for having brought “extraordinary results at national and international levels.”

“Through their leadership, our laureates have inspired efforts that between 2012 and 2017 reduced the number of stunted children in the world by 10 million,” Ambassador Quinn said at the ceremony at the U.S. Department of Agriculture in Washington, D.C.

Their work also cemented the idea that highly nutritious, healthy foods — not just basic staples — are essential for mothers and their children during the children’s first 1,000 days of life.

“Undernutrition — whether growth failure or micronutrient malnutrition — is falling too slowly,” said Dr. Haddad, a pioneer in food policy research who is now executive director of the Global Alliance for Improved Nutrition (GAIN).

Poor diets are associated with diabetes, hypertension and obesity, and one in three people are malnourished — “with no country exempt,” Dr. Haddad said in June. GAIN’s mission, he added, is to make nutritious, safe food more available, affordable and desirable for all, and especially for babies, toddlers, young children and other vulnerable people.

Dr. Nabarro’s career highlights include his leadership of the U.N. High Level Task Force on Global Food Security from 2008 to 2014. During those years, he successfully brought 54 countries and one Indian state into a new, anti-malnutrition U.N. project called the Scaling Up Nutrition (SUN) Movement. Today, the SUN program involves 60 countries and is working toward ending malnutrition in all its forms by 2030.

There are “thousands of courageous women and men” working in well-functioning, local food systems, said Dr. Nabarro, who is now strategic director of Skills Systems & Synergies for Sustainable Development (4SD). These local leaders “have the wisdom needed to reduce levels of malnutrition or diet-related illness … They are the transformation leaders of the future,” he said.

The Oct. 18 World Food Prize award ceremony is a highlight of this year’s gathering, which is held in Des Moines, Iowa, Oct. 15-19 and features events such as the Iowa Hunger Summit, the Borlaug Dialogue International Symposium and Global Youth Institute.

The theme of this year’s symposium is “Rise to the Challenge” — a reference to “the single greatest challenge in human history,” which is “whether we can sustainably feed the 9 billion people who will be on our planet in the year 2050,” Ambassador Quinn said.

The World Food Prize, which recognizes pivotal achievements in improving the quality, quantity and availability of food, was established in 1986 by Dr. Borlaug, an Iowa-born agricultural scientist who participated in the events until his death in 2009 at age 95.

During the 1940s and 1950s, Dr. Borlaug developed many strains of high-yielding, disease-resistant “miracle wheat” in Mexico. He then got these seeds into countries with severe food shortages — like India and Pakistan in the 1960s — and sparked the “Green Revolution” in food production.

In 1970, Dr. Borlaug became the first person from the world of agriculture to be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The World Food Prize and its $250,000 award are presented by the World Food Prize Foundation with support from dozens of companies, foundations and individuals, including the family of the late Des Moines businessman and philanthropist John Ruan Sr.

To date, the 48 laureates have come from Bangladesh, Belgium, Brazil, Cape Verde, China, Cuba, Denmark, Ethiopia, Ghana, India, Israel, Mexico, Sierra Leone, Switzerland, Uganda, United Kingdom, United States and United Nations.

Please follow @WorldFoodPrize.

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