Fifth Birthday and Beyond: Zameer’s Story

Our teams in Pakistan work to prevent child deaths from malnutrition
Zameer and his mother with Plumpy'nut, Dadu District, Pakistan. Photo: ACF-Pakistan, Blackbox Sounds
Zameer and his mother with Plumpy'nut, Dadu District, Pakistan. Photo: ACF-Pakistan, Blackbox Sounds

Editor’s Note: Action Against Hunger is a Coalition Partner of 5th Birthday and Beyond, a celebration of the remarkable strides made in the past 25 years to prevent child deaths from diseases like malnutrition. In honor of this initiative, we’re sharing an inspiring story from our lifesaving programs in Pakistan.

I recently returned from Pakistan, where a combination of natural disasters, political instability and chronic poverty  has displaced millions of people and destroyed vital infrastructure, causing widespread food insecurity and limited access to safe water and sanitation. These circumstances often negatively impact children the most, increasing their risk of becoming malnourished. Across Pakistan, one in five children under five years old is malnourished—children like Zameer, a little boy in Dadu District.

Saving Zameer from malnutrition

Because his mother did not have access to appropriate maternal care and nutrition, Zameer was born with low birth weight. At six months old, Zameer had trouble nursing and was still not gaining weight. Afraid for her son’s life, Zameer’s mother brought him to a community health clinic supported by Action Against Hunger, where he was diagnosed with severe acute malnutrition.

At the clinic, we treated Zameer using ready-to-use therapeutic food: a highly nutritious, protein-dense paste specially formulated to help children recover from acute malnutrition. After eight weeks of treatment, he gained weight and regained his health.

Preventing malnutrition in his community

But therapeutic nutrition treatment alone isn’t enough to prevent child deaths from malnutrition. We must also tackle the underlying causes of hunger in children’s homes and communities, such as lack of access to nutritious food and safe water and sanitation, as well as lack of education on appropriate diets, hygiene, and care practices.

So while we treated Zameer for malnutrition, we also taught his mother how to keep him healthy with good nursing and hygiene techniques. When Zameer was discharged from the clinic, we signed his family up to participate in our fresh food voucher program so they can access fresh, nutritious food from the local market. And in their community, we’re helping families like his diversify their diets by providing them with livestock and teaching them how to grow their own vegetables.

We’ve been working in Pakistan since the 1990s, and will continue to save lives and address the root causes of malnutrition across the country. With our integrated approach to hunger, we can ensure that more children like Zameer can survive—and thrive—to their fifth birthday and beyond.