A healthy diet: it’s what every child needs to survive and to grow up to fulfil their potential. 

But millions miss out. The consequences can be catastrophic.

Robert, four months old, is given life-saving treatment for severe malnutrition at a clinic we run in the Democratic Republic of Congo. (photo: Ivy Lahon/Save the Children)

Close to half of all preventable deaths of children have malnutrition as an underlying cause. Children who are malnourished are less able to fight off illnesses like diarrhoea and pneumonia.

And for millions more children who survive, malnutrition is a life sentence.

One in four children in poor countries suffer permanent damage to their bodies and minds – a condition known as stunting – as a result of having missed out as a young child on the nutritious food they need to grow and develop.

There's been remarkable progress in bringing down the number of children dying – child mortality has almost halved since 1990. But malnutrition remains a stubborn challenge. We’re determined to tackle it.

Supporting families

For millions of families in extreme poverty a nutritious diet is simply out of reach.

In rural northern Nigeria, half the population can’t afford a healthy diet and it’s reported that half of all children under five are stunted.

That’s why we’re co-leading an ambitious partnership here to support young children and mothers during the critical first 1,000 days – from conception, through pregnancy, up to a child’s second birthday. To help young children and pregnant women get the nutrients they need, we’re giving grants of £14 per month, coupled with dietary advice, to 60,000 pregnant women and mothers.

By the end of 2018, we anticipate that more than 400,000 people in northern Nigeria will have benefited from increased food security and protection from extreme poverty.

But we don’t intend to stop there. By piloting the Child Development Grants Programme at scale in two states, we aim to create the conditions for the Nigerian government and local authorities to be able to expand this approach across the north of the country.

We’re also providing millions of young children here with vital vitamins. In 2014, our Working to Improve Nutrition in Northern Nigeria programme provided more than 2.5 million young children with vitamin supplements to support their growth and boost their immune systems. We also supplied iron supplements to more than 1 million pregnant women.

Tackling severe hunger

Our specialist feeding centres in emergency situations provide life-saving nutrition to severely malnourished children.

In South Sudan in 2014 more than 200,000 children were suffering from acute malnutrition. We reached 100,000 children with nutrient-rich food, healthcare, psychological support and emergency education.

Preventing crises

How can we prevent food crises before they occur? That’s the challenge our Household Economy Approach addresses.

The HEA analyses typical families’ food and income sources, as well as their spending and ways of coping when a crisis occurs. We then project which areas and types of households are most vulnerable to shocks, such as droughts and rises in food prices.

Our approach has been used and developed over decades, helping millions of people. And since 2011 across Africa’s fragile Sahel region we’ve trained 400 government and NGO staff in the HEA – increasing the resilience of almost 35 million people in Burkina Faso, Chad, Mali, Mauritania, Niger, Nigeria and Senegal.

Enough Food for Everyone IF

We also put pressure on world leaders to tackle the scandal of global hunger.

In 2013, together with more than 100 other charities, we created the Enough Food for Everyone IF campaign, which culminated in a mass rally in Hyde Park. It was followed by global commitments to improve children’s nutrition and save millions of children’s lives.

Find out more about what we achieved with the Enough Food for Everyone campaign.

One year earlier, in 2012, our Race Against Hunger campaign helped persuade Prime Minister David Cameron to hold a special hunger summit on the last day of the London Olympics with other world leaders.

The event saw India announce a doubling of its budget to improve the nutrition and health of 100 million children and women. The EU committed to reducing the number of stunted children by 7 million, and Unilever and GSK agreed to work out ways of making affordable nutritious food available to poor families.