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Global Malnutrition Crisis

A hopeless reality, or time to get things done?

Things have become desperate. The reality for millions of children in Somalia, Sudan, and elsewhere, is a bleak one.

They are living in an unprecedented global hunger and malnutrition crisis, the likes of which have no place in the 21st century. World leaders are failing them, struggling to respond to the multiple crises playing out right now.

But there is hope; treatment is simple and new funding announced at UNGA last month offers the opportunity to save children’s lives in Somalia now. But we cannot take our eye off the ball on this man-made and preventable disaster.


60 million children under 5 are experiencing the worst and most life-threatening kind of malnutrition – child wasting. Wasting, defined as low weight for height, is the most severe and life-threatening form of undernutrition.

That number has risen by around 13 million in the last couple of years reversing decades of progress. 513,000 severely malnourished children in Somalia right now are at risk of death, their organs will start to shut down and their bodies taken over by disease.


Hunger has slowly risen up the agenda at important international moments such as the UN General Assembly. Save the Children employs brilliant and sharp minds to leverage these events to see better outcomes for children, but despite their and others’ efforts, it’s all fallen a bit flat.

Apart from the US government, world leaders have fallen far too short. A huge $30bn-in-humanitarian-funding short. It’s easy to feel utterly deflated and hopeless about this scenario. The thing is, malnutrition isn’t an incurable disease, the solutions are cheap and known, but the main solution tried to-date seems to be piecemeal funding, empty rhetoric, and apathy. 


But there is some hope.

In July, USAID set out to match a new investment of $250 million, with an ambition to match that funding. The latest event at UNGA saw new pledges of $280m announced – far exceeding what we all thought would come. $126m was raised from philanthropies who are increasingly filling the void left by ODA cuts and more ‘traditional’ channels of humanitarian funding.

It may sound like a drop in a $30bn ocean, and it is, but this funding is still going to save lives now. It will help UNICEF to scale up its treatment response, including through Ready to Use Therapeutic Foods (RUTF).

RUTF is pretty close to being a silver bullet. Carefully calculated sachets of a peanut miracle paste. When it is given as part of treatment to very malnourished children, it can bring them back to health.


More money for RUTF means more treatment available – and that’s a big deal because more than 80% of the sick children who need this aren’t currently accessing treatment. Check out this great visual explainer here for why we’re so committed on this issue.

This new funding will help to stave off some of the predicted mass child mortality in the coming months. But it won’t stop it entirely as conflict continues, food insecurity grows, and malnutrition worsens. We have the tools, we need the political will and the financing to use them – it’s time to get things done.  

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