Africa’s Hidden Hunger

DAR ES SALAAM – Just over 20 years ago, South African photographer Kevin Carter shocked the world with a controversial photograph of a famished young Sudanese child being watched by a vulture during a famine. Critics slammed the shot as “disaster porn,” calling it yet another example of how the international media sensationalize African problems.

But what disturbs me is not the photograph. Rather, it is that two decades later, the conditions that the photograph depicts remain basically the same. Every year, 3.1 million children around the world still die of hunger.

As an African doctor, I know that the ravages of serious malnutrition and hunger are not always visible. They are not always as manifest as they are in the protruding ribs of ghostly children hooked up to feeding tubes, like those I used to see in hospital wards in Tanzania. Chronic malnutrition, or “hidden hunger,” shows itself in other ways – but it can be just as devastating and deadly. And while deaths from many other diseases, including acute malnutrition, have declined, hidden hunger remains pervasive.

In the last two decades, astounding success has been achieved in the

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