According to Canadian government data on nutrition in developing countries, more than 2.3 billion people around the world suffer from malnutrition in one form or another. Data notes that 928 million people don’t get enough food, 2 billion people don’t get enough vitamins and minerals, 149 million children under five are too short for their age (stunted) , 45 million children under the age of five do not weigh enough for their age. height (wasting) and 39 million children under five weigh too much for their height. Alarmingly, data further suggests that many children lack nutritious foods containing essential vitamins and minerals, leading to high infant mortality before the age of five.
In another announcement from UNICEF Executive Director Catherine Russell regarding the 2022 edition of The state of food security and nutrition in the world (SOFI), that world hunger reached 828 million in 2021. This is an increase of 46 million since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic. Although positive progress has been made in maintaining food security, global trends in child undernutrition continue to be a major concern. This concern is also impacted by the war in Ukraine. The war affects the supply of cereals and ready-to-use therapeutic foods for children suffering from severe malnutrition. It is against these global nutritional challenges in children that UNICEF has issued a clear call to the world and to the media: “we must take bolder action now”.
The critical role of the media
The media continues to act as a mechanism for social change. From an agenda-setting perspective, media institutions, through critical editorial efforts, are able to inform, instruct and educate society on issues that promote human development and sanctity in society. Thus, the media has the power to interpret the issues that affect humanity and subsequently effect the necessary action of policy makers, partners and society as a whole towards a specific development agenda. For example, the way the media frames malnutrition in children could trigger the action needed for change. To a greater extent, editorial media advocacy could be positioned to raise awareness of nutritional deficiencies in children and offer constructive opinions.
Despite the effective role the media could play in setting the social change and development agenda necessary for the management of child malnutrition, the competing decision of editorials in controlling information could prevent malnutrition issues from go through the editor’s door. A study of Ghanaian media coverage of content analysis of child nutrition and health information describes the following:
Ghanaian media coverage of child health and nutrition: Child nutrition only 2%
The study analyzed 48 Ghanaian print, radio, television and online news channels for child health news from January to December 2021. The methodology of the analysis was news content analysis. A total of 10,794 news items were analyzed with encoder reliability results of 85%. Covid-19 achieved the highest coverage of 50%, followed by community health initiatives at 27%, child health at 4% and child nutrition registration at equally high coverage low than 2%. These results suggest that the media should be encouraged with the necessary support and partnership in promoting child nutrition initiatives. The efforts of UNICEF Ghana in partnership with the government and other agencies should be commended and strengthened to achieve the UN Sustainable 2030 Agenda for better nutrition and promoting the well-being of all children .
In the future, the expectation of the media in terms of promoting human development will have to be linked to scientific instruments of media monitoring. Unfortunately, policymakers have to some extent failed to recognize media content monitoring and its impact in holistically assessing the role of media in advancing the UN’s sustainable agenda. Perhaps it is time we found answers to this global rhetoric: how can we hold the media accountable or establish whether the media is giving the SDG agenda the most or the least editorial attention without any measuring stick and coherent scientific result? It’s one of the ways we can meet UNICEF’s clear call to the world and to the media that “we must take bolder action now”.
Messan Mawugbe (PhD),
Strategic communications consultant
Meadows: Castle Rock, Colorado