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One billion holiday wishes

As a new year dawns, 1 billion people worldwide face difficult challenges. But hundreds of organizations are working tirelessly to help.

By Nourishing the Planet / December 26, 2011

A Somali girl carries her sibling as they wait to collect food relief from the World Food Programme at a settlement in Mogadishu, the capital of Somalia, last August. Drought and armed conflict have contributed to a famine there. Worldwide, nearly 1 billion people go to bed hungry each night.

Ismail Taxta/Reuters/File

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The holidays are a time for putting others before yourself. And with the recent announcement that the world’s population has surpassed 7 billion, there are a lot more "others" to consider this year.

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Nearly 1 billion people in the world are hungry, for example, while almost the same number are illiterate, making it hard for them to earn a living or move out of poverty.

One billion people – many of them children – have micronutrient deficiencies, decreasing their ability to learn and live productive lives.

 IN PICTURES: Food security in Africa

But there are hundreds and hundreds of organizations working tirelessly in communities at home and abroad to fix these problems.

One billion hungry

Although the number of undernourished people worldwide has decreased since 2009, nearly 1 billion people go to bed hungry each night. This number is unacceptably high. Malnutrition contributes to the death of half a billion children under the age of five every year, and in Africa alone, one child dies every six seconds from hunger.

But organizations such as the World Food Programme are using home-grown school feeding (HGSF) initiatives to alleviate hunger and poverty. HGSF programs in Brazil, India, Thailand, Kenya, and other countries work to connect local producers with schools, helping to provide children with nutritious and fresh food while providing farmers with a stable source of income.

One billion tons of food wasted

Roughly 1.3 billion tons of food – a third of the total food produced for human consumption – is lost or wasted each year. Within the United States, food retailers, services, and households waste approximately 40 million tons of food each year – an amount that has been estimated to be enough to feed the close to 1 billion hungry people.

Thankfully, organizations around the world are working to educate people on the importance of preserving food. In New York City, City Harvest collects surplus food from food providers and distributes it to over 600 shelters and other agencies.

And in West Africa, farmers are using the power of the sun to dehydrate fruits such as mangoes and bananas. Experts estimate that, with nearly all of their moisture removed, the fruits’ nutrients are retained for up to six months, allowing farmers to save the 100,000 tons of mangoes that go to waste each year. 

One billion micronutrient deficient 

Nearly 1 billion people suffer from micro-nutrient deficiencies, including lack of vitamin A, iron, and iodine. Between a quarter of a billion to half a billion children with vitamin A deficiencies become blind every year, and half of these children die within 12 months of losing their sight.

These problems could be fixed by ensuring access to nutritious foods. Organizations such as AVRDC – The World Vegetable Center and the Developing Innovations in School cultivation (Project DISC) have been working to combat this problem.

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