The issue of poverty is often referred to as a cycle; one that is persistent, vicious and reluctant to change. While low-income often precludes education, everyday nutrition and healthcare, these outcomes also sustain the cycle, allowing it to repeat itself indefinitely. Nutrition, when left unaddressed, is one of those industrious issues that is responsible for upholding the poverty cycle.

People need to be made aware that nutrition from day one is essential for children’s growth and development. It is widely known that nutrient deficiency in the first one thousand days of life, starting from conception, have irreversible consequences for the immune system of children.

As nutrient deficiency continues from infancy to early childhood, malnutrition becomes increasingly detrimental in the physical and mental development of children. Recent studies have demonstrated that nutrition affects students’ cognitive learning, behaviour and overall academic performance.

When children are unable to concentrate in the classroom, their chances of receiving a higher education and earning an income become slim; the vicious cycle of poverty continues.

At Mahboba’s Promise, we have witnessed the devastating impact of this cycle. In response, we have established several programs across Afghanistan to combat the issue of nutrient deficiency, including our Permaculture Farm and Vitamin Angels project. Our Permaculture Farm, which is just outside of Kabul, combats the issue of poverty and nutrient deficiency through innovative means.

Firstly, the farm provides vocational training to the widows in our care, providing them with the skills necessary to run the farm and ultimately generate an income. And secondly, the fresh produce from the farm is delivered to the local community, including the children at our Hope Houses, providing them with nutritious food at a lower cost than traditionally high market prices.

A widow working at Mahboba’s Promise’s Permaculture Farm.

Being one of the most impoverished nations in Asia, child mortality rates in Afghanistan are one of the highest in the world. Vitamin A deficiency has been found to be one of the major contributors to mortality of children under five.

Recently, Mahboba’s Promise partnered with Vitamin Angels, to provide pregnant women and children with Vitamin A supplements to assist and prevent malnutrition. By giving supplements to pregnant women and young mothers, who are also convinced to breastfeed their babies for at least six months, the number of infant deaths could be reduced by 43.5 per cent. By subsequently providing the right baby food and vitamin A and zinc supplements to children from 6 to 59 months, their chances in life increase substantially.

While the self-sustaining nature of the poverty cycle appears unwilling to significant change, the potential to reduce poverty is in fact a realistic possibility.

The sooner governments, institutions and non-profit organisations can identify how interconnected the issue of poverty is to many other issues including nutrition, health, education and safety, the sooner the world will see a global breakthrough in the war on poverty.

To find out more about Mahboba’s Promise, visit our website at www.mahbobaspromise.org, or call 02 98871665.