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Global Malnutrition Initiative

What is the Global Malnutrition Initiative?

Save the Children’s Global Malnutrition Initiative (GMI) aims to galvanise increased action to prevent, diagnose, and treat child acute malnutrition in fragile and conflict-affected contexts, including Kenya and Somalia.

Through rigorous research, the GMI seeks to test and scale up cost-effective approaches to diagnose and treat acute malnutrition at the community level.

We are also working to better understand relapse – when a child who has been treated for acute malnutrition becomes malnourished once again – so that, in time, we may be able to design better interventions to prevent this from happening. Finally, we advocate for the adoption, financing and scale-up of these approaches by our partners and policymakers at both national and global level. 

The GMI is supported by our Patron Sir Mo Farah.


Why acute malnutrition?

Acute malnutrition, also known as ‘wasting’, is when children are thin for their height because of acute food shortages or disease. Acute malnutrition is characterised by a rapid deterioration in nutritional status over a short period of time in children under five years of age.

  • In 2022, acute malnutrition threatened the lives of an estimated 45 million children under five globally.
  • Undernutrition is associated with 45% of all child deaths. 
  • A child with acute malnutrition is eleven times more likely to die from common childhood illnesses, including pneumonia.

We are committed to tackling this enormous threat to child survival, as part of our collective effort to end preventable child deaths – including those caused by acute malnutrition – by 2030. Save the Children has significant health and nutrition programming globally, of which the GMI forms part.

Our Approach

Noura*, 15 months, with her sister, Shadia, eight, Lahj district, Yemen.

“I’ve seen a lot of change since I started this.
Before, I could only do assessments and refer children with malnutrition to the health facility – this was very far away and demoralising for the mother. Everyone is satisfied now”
Huda* a CHW in Somalia

By empowering local communities to be able to prevent and manage malnutrition closer to home we are increasing access to much-needed treatment to children most at risk.

Our programme, initiated with our own resources and now part funded by FCDO through UK Aid Match, is piloting the early detection and treatment of malnutrition by community health workers (CHWs) who are often more easily accessible to people in the community compared to health facilities. We have developed training and simplified tools, including a simplified colour-coded arm measuring band, to enable CHWs to diagnose and treat children effectively. In order to scale this approach, our project also involves an important research element, generating robust evidence to address knowledge gaps and inform policy change at the national and global levels.




Our GMI team produce regular reports on our work and how we utilise funding and stories of the children we have supported, and overviews of our work in our priority countries. To be kept updated and sign up to our quarterly newsletters please email p.walker@savethechildren.org.uk.

You can read our latest reports below: