News » MD Student Harleen Marwah Travels to United Nations for World Food Day

MD Student Harleen Marwah Travels to United Nations for World Food Day

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Harleen Marwah
Photo credit: Dan Reed/Planet Forward

According to United Nations reports, 815 million people worldwide are undernourished, and roughly 17 million children under the age of five suffer from severe acute malnutrition, also known as severe wasting. Harleen Marwah saw firsthand the effects of that widespread hunger during a trip to India as part of the Global Health Scholarly Concentration at the George Washington University (GW) School of Medicine and Health Sciences (SMHS). From that experience, she understood how important the topic was to address from a clinical perspective.

Through an opportunity offered by Planet Forward, Marwah, a second-year medical student at SMHS, was one of only four students — and the only medical student — selected to participate in meetings during the 45th Committee on World Food Security (CFS45) at the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (UNFAO) in October 2018.

Planet Forward is a project from the Center for Innovative Media at GW that focuses on sharing stories that move the planet forward, Marwah submitted an article on Rescuing Leftover Cuisine, a nonprofit that connects restaurants with homeless shelters and food banks.

“Rescuing Leftover Cuisine partners with restaurants to ‘rescue’ leftovers by donating them to homeless shelters and other community partners,” she explained. “With a scalable model, they have been able to expand from New York to 16 other cities in just five years.”

Following the selection of her story, Marwah traveled to Rome where she spent the week meeting with global delegates, nutritionists, and officials from the UNFAO. The United Nations’ CFS45 brought together stakeholders from around the world in both a collective vision for zero hunger by 2030 and in coordinated actions to ensure a future of global nutrition and food security.

“Queen Letizia of Spain said something during the meeting that really stuck with me,” Marwah recalled. “‘It’s not about simply feeding, it’s about nourishing.’ It’s one thing to give people access to food, it’s another to give them access to the right food.”

This is not Marwah’s first time stepping into the world of policy. Previously, she participated in the conference of party negotiations by the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, which sparked her interest in the relationship between climate change and health.

During this trip to Rome, Marwah also looked forward to learning more about what the UN is doing to tackle their Sustainable Development Goals, a collection of 17 global goals set by the UN General Assembly in 2015.

“I’m excited to see people from different backgrounds working to solve a big problem,” she remarked. “I want to observe and be part of that process and bring what I learn back to share with my classmates.”

As a follow-up to the meeting, Marwah is writing a piece about the importance of medicine in these negotiations and how clinicians can be advocates for their patients both locally and globally. Once finished, the story will be published on the Planet Forward website.