It’s a scandal that hunger still kills almost 3 million children every year. Despite the progress we’ve made in reducing child mortality, malnutrition is still the hidden cause behind almost half of children’s deaths worldwide. We’re pioneering new ways to predict and prevent food crises. And we’re helping malnourished children survive and thrive.
In 2015, our nutrition and health programmes helped 9.8 million children.
There’s enough food in the world for everyone. But poverty and rising food prices mean that many families simply can’t afford it.
At the same time, climate change threatens to increase the frequency of droughts and food crises.
Relentless hunger weakens children’s immune systems and leaves them vulnerable to infection and disease. And for those who survive, malnutrition is a life sentence.
One in four children in poor countries suffers permanent damage to their bodies and minds because they don’t get the nutritious food they need.
We’re committed to ending child deaths from hunger. On the ground, our teams are screening children for malnutrition, distributing vitamin supplements and helping families improve their income. And we’re pioneering new methods of predicting food crises so governments can take action sooner.
At just eight months old, Lolima is already malnourished. He lives in South Sudan, where more than two million children face food insecurity.
His mum, Luchia, says: “At this time of year there is no food. We struggle to get food for our children.”
When they arrived at our clinic, Lolima and his twin brother Lokor were both suffering from diarrhoea and vomiting.
Our teams assessed them and prescribed medicine and nutritional milk. The twins quickly began to improve.
How big is the problem?
- 45% of child deaths are linked to malnutrition. Children who are malnourished are less able to fight off illnesses like diarrhoea and pneumonia.
- 450 million children globally will face chronic malnutrition over the next 15 years.
- 1 in 4 children in poor countries suffer permanent damage to their bodies and minds as a result of hunger – a condition known as stunting.
Face-to-face with hunger
We're working to end hunger in countries around the world. Here are some of the things we're doing.
Northern Nigeria: In partnership with DFID, we’re giving out small grants and dietary advice to help 60,000 pregnant women and mothers get the nutritious food they and their children need in their first 1000 days. We’re also supplying vitamin and iron supplements and helping health services offer nutrition advice, with the aim of reaching 6 million children.
Niger: Focusing on a child’s first 1,000 days, we’re tackling malnutrition in pregnant women and children under two. As well as providing extra food during the hungry season, we’re teaching people improved farming techniques and empowering women and girls to earn and save.
West Africa: We’re pioneering a new system to improve how governments predict and respond to food crises. We’ve trained almost 400 people to identify the most vulnerable populations using data on typical families’ income, spending and food sources.
South Sudan: Amidst bitter conflict in South Sudan, we’re using community-based approaches to identify and treat malnutrition. As well as inpatient centres for severely malnourished children, we run outpatient feeding programmes to help children stay healthy.
Yemen: With a food crisis threatening millions of children in Yemen, our emergency teams are distributing food and cash grants to families, and treating children for malnutrition.
- Unequal Portions: The world is way off track in eradicating malnutrition. What needs to change to ensure good nutrition for every last child?
- Malnutrition in Zambia: How can the most vulnerable children be protected from malnutrition?
- Malnutrition in Bangladesh: Harnessing the power of social protection to improve nutrition among Bangladesh's poorest children.
- Adolescent Nutrition: In some countries up to half of adolescents are malnourished. What needs to change?
*Name changed to protect identity.
Last updated August 2016.