Action Against Hunger works to end child hunger

The revolution is coming

I’m a numbers person. I need to see the figures to believe the facts. Maybe you’re like me. If so, here is one for you: in the last ten years the number of severely malnourished children who receive treatment has risen from just a couple of hundred thousand to around 3 million per year.

By Saul Guerrero

May 14 2014

A tenfold increase in as many years! In public health terms, that is nothing short of extraordinary. In the past people assumed that we would never be able to save every child dying from hunger. But we can.

In the last ten years, as part of this effort, the work of a handful of committed individuals and organisations has revolutionised how we treat the most life-threatening form of malnutrition. Treatment that could only be given by specialised staff, under close supervision in hospitals, is now something that mothers and fathers can give their children at home after quick diagnosis by a health-worker. So instead of treating only a handful of children at a time, we now know we can make life-saving treatment available to all children who need it. 

I was part of the team that collected some of the early data from pilot projects in Malawi and Ethiopia that proved that this new treatment plan could work.  And I remember the scepticism back then, the feeling that things couldn’t be that simple, that surely more elaborate answers were required. 

But it was that simple, and it still is. 

For the first time in history we have a treatment that we know can work; and the numbers to back it up. We know families can safely treat their own children, so we can turn every house into a private infirmary and successfully prevent millions of children from dying every year. When I saw the numbers coming in showing how many children we were reaching for the first time, I knew we were onto something that could change everything. And that feeling is still with me today.

This treatment revolution has been powerful because of the people who were and are a part of it. The ones fighting for global policy changes, or pushing for governments stump up the funds and adopt this approach and, of course, the mothers and fathers at the front line of all this who are giving the treatment to save their children’s lives. 

But to make sure the revolution takes hold, we all need to take action. If we push our governments for strong political and financial commitments now, we can end child deaths from malnutrition in our lifetime and make sure that every child who needs treatment can access it. 

Because if the work of just a handful of people can increase the number of children receiving treatment by tenfold in just ten years, just think what could a popular movement do to those numbers over the next decades.

Find out more in our animated video below:

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