UNICEF’s Kid Power fitness tracker tackles obesity and malnutrition at the same time


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BY: ELIJAH BASSETT

One of the darkest ironies of modern capitalism is that we in industrialized nations have more food than we know what to do with, while many people living in the Global South still struggle with malnutrition.  But UNICEF has developed a program that is turning the problem into part of the solution.  It’s called Kid Power, and it manages to tackle the twin problems of childhood obesity in America and malnutrition in impoverished countries.

In essence, the program involves selling durable fitness trackers called Kid Power Bands, which measures both steps and movement. Points unlock funding from Kid Power sponsors and supporters, and funding is used by UNICEF to deliver lifesaving packets of therapeutic food to severely malnourished children around the world. According to UNICEF  the calories are sent in the form of “Ready-to-Use Therapeutic Food packets,” which is a peanut paste containing protein and vitamins that can prove life-saving for malnourished children.

Unfortunately, with 16 million children suffering from what UNICEF calls Severe Acute Malnutrition, they’ve got their work cut out for them; especially since they currently only have the funding to help about 3 million of them.  Part of the point of Kid Power is to open up more funding in order to get food to more of the people who so desperately need it.  Money is collected from sales of the Band, as well as donations in support of the initiative.

You may be wondering how big a difference one child’s burned calories can make in another’s life, but one thing that Kid Power has already found is that there is power in numbers.  By co-operating with schools around the country, the program has gotten tens of thousands of elementary school students moving, resulting in nearly 2,000 lives saved during the Spring of 2016.  This on top of contributions from individual children using the Bands.

Given that there are millions of students in America who could be participating in this, not to mention in other countries around the world.  Even though the thousands of lives saved by the program are a major accomplishment, a much wider-scale implementation of the program could have an even greater impact in saving the people suffering most from global hunger.

Of course, this is only part of a solution to the problem of worldwide hunger.  In fact, the very nature of Kid Power points to an important point about the issue: there actually is enough food to go around. The issue is not an actual lack of food, but a lack of willingness by industrialized nations to solve the problem.  According to a 2015 report by the Food and Agricultural Organization, the International Fund for Agricultural Development, and the World Food Programme, it would only cost 0.3% of the world’s combined annual income (that comes to about $265 billion US yearly) from 2016 to 2030 to solve world hunger by 2030.

UNICEF Malnutrition Fitness Tracker

0.3 percent is entirely manageable, so the only reason not to do it is an unwillingness to enforce people’s human right to a sufficient food supply.  UNICEF’s Kid Power initiative is still crucial in that it helps the people most dangerously affected by this problem, but even more immediate action is needed in order to cure the disease rather than just treat the symptoms.

That said, the kind of action necessary to solve this crisis, while ultimately manageable, is a bit beyond most of our personal means.  If you want to help fight global malnutrition but don’t have the billions necessary to save the world, you can still help by getting your kid a Kid Power Band (online or at Target) if you’re in America; and if you’re outside of America or don’t have kids, UNICEF also accepts donations for the project.