What is so wrong with eggs?
925 million around the world are hungry- that is one in seven. One in four people are undernourished, not receiving the amount of nutrients they need for energy, to work, learn or develop. Every 12 seconds, a child dies from lack of food. These statistics are heartbreaking, but in no way are they the final word. Continue to follow us this week on the Women of Vision blog for a special “Women and Hunger” week as we learn more about hunger, how it affects women and what is being done to make positive change.
In 2011, two researchers from Georgetown University reported on their experiences in Ghana. Among their reports, focused on pregnancy and infants, was that women in Ghana will not eat eggs while they are pregnant because they believe that if they do, their baby will become a thief as an adult. Researchers reported that this was critical, because eggs are an important source of protein.
Egg production is a growing industry in Ghana. One chicken can produce 230-250 eggs per year. Eggs are a great source of protein, vitamins, minerals and choline, an essential nutrient that contributes to fetal brain development and helps prevent birth defects. In the typical Ghanian family, at mealtime men and boys receive priority over women and girls, and therefore, they eat first. The remaining food then goes on to feed girl children and then to the mother. A pregnant mother eats the last leftovers and if the meat is gone, the milk is gone and the grains are, the mother’s protein is gone. Because after all, who wants their baby to be a thief?
In the United States, most people, including pregnant women, have the luxury of choosing what to eat. People take for granted planning meals, enjoying variety and saying no to food that is not preferred- All without putting our health seriously at risk. For the 925 million people in the world who do not have enough food to eat, this is not a luxury they can afford.
So, what is so wrong with eggs? Nothing really. They are nutritious and affordable. The problem is much larger than the eggs.
Communities need to be educated about nutrition and the real benefits and risks. The inequality that causes women to be 80 percent more likely to go hungry at meals, as reported by the World Food Programme, needs to be addressed. But overall, there needs to be enough food on the table so that when a pregnant woman chooses not to eat one thing, she and her baby are not put at great risk. UNICEF reports that around half of all pregnant women in developing countries are anemic. Iron deficiency causes around 110,000 deaths during child birth each year. Malnourished mothers typically give birth to underweight babies who are 20 percent more likely to die before the age of five and it is estimated that 17 million children are born underweight every year.
It is often said that there are many factors that cause hunger, but people are who cause famine. Famine and hunger can be prevented by encouraging those who make policies to make choices that can help the one in seven people who go hungry each day. The Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations has shown that educating mothers means that fewer children in the family are undernourished. It is estimated that by closing the gender gap in agriculture by giving women farmers more resources, the number of hungry people in the world could be reduced by 100 – 150 million people. Education is a piece, agriculture is a piece and gender equality is a piece. Leaders need to be encouraged to address each of these so that policies can support people that just want food on the table, health for their family and a chance for their children to grow healthy and thrive.