Today, more than 800 million people around the world suffer from hunger. “Why not think big? I believe we can solve hunger by 2030. I believe we can change the world,” says Jochen Moninger, humanitarian worker and innovation director at the non-profit Welthungerhilfe.
Jochen Moninger speaks with young men in Sierra Leone.
His 12 years spent living and working in distant lands – from Yemen to Sudan – taught Moninger a hard truth, he says: “Ending malnutrition will begin only after the true scope of hunger is accurately measured, one child at a time.”
Current data on childhood undernourishment is badly flawed, Moninger says. Manual scales in far-flung communities often lack calibration while millions of children in distant encampments rarely get weighed at all.
The solution: Equip remote places with a new technology to reach the unreached – and give the world its first valid accounting of the crisis to better focus the food and financial response.
The non-profit is developing a cloud-based, smartphone app called Child Growth Monitor that can scan children and instantly detect malnutrition.
The app uses an infrared sensor available in some smartphones to capture 3D measurements of a child’s height, body volume and weight ratio, as well as head and upper arm circumferences down to the millimeter.
The app loads that captured data into Microsoft Azure.Nutritionists and IT specialists then evaluate the scans by using Microsoft artificial intelligence solutions, pinpointing a child’s dietary health.
The experts later pump that data back into the app, training the algorithm to get smarter with each measurement. When field workers using the app find children who are struggling from chronic malnutrition, they provide those kids with vitamin-rich provisions like peanut butter paste.
“You can’t solve hunger,” Moninger says, “if you don’t know where the hungry people are. “Many of us are fighting hunger but we aren’t doing it fast enough. We need innovation.”
To test a prototype, 2 teams of trained health workers in India were equipped with app-enabled smartphones, to scan about 10,000 children under age 5 – a group particularly vulnerable to the ravages of malnutrition.
Billions of dollars already are spent to combat malnutrition around the world. But Child Growth Monitor can help those expenditures become more efficient and more targeted, says Dr. Michael Menhart, chief economist at Munich Re, a re-insurance company that is supporting the development of Child Growth Monitor. (Welthungerhilfe also is accepting donationsto scale their solution.)