A malnourished child and her mother sit inside one of Action Against Hunger's nutrition centers in Ethiopia.

Without Bold Action, Global Nutrition Targets Will Not Be Met

Action Against Hunger, the innocent foundation, and the International Rescue Committee call upon world leaders to recommit to ending acute malnutrition

Four years ago, world leaders agreed to the Sustainable Development Goals—including committing to end all forms of malnutrition. Action Against Hunger, the innocent foundation, and the International Rescue Committee are concerned that the world is off track to meet global nutrition targets and are urging world leaders to take bold action to end wasting. Today’s SDG Summit is a critical opportunity for world leaders to recommit to end acute malnutrition and make political and financial commitments to advance the global nutrition agenda.

Almost 50 million children under five are wasted today. With less than 20 per cent of children in need of treatment receiving it, and limited progress on effective prevention at scale, the global burden of wasting has largely stagnated over the years. Not only are we failing to prevent this life-threatening form of malnutrition from occurring in the first place, we are also failing to ensure that those who currently suffer from wasting have access to safe and effective treatment.

Wasting threatens the lives of millions of children every year, leaving them in a vicious cycle of malnutrition, disease, vulnerability, and poverty. This specific form of malnutrition alone is an underlying cause of an estimated 800,000 child deaths annually, or more than 2,000 deaths every single day.

“Ensuring that all children affected receive the treatment they need is a crucial part of global efforts to meet the Sustainable Development Goals,” said Charles Owubah, CEO of Action Against Hunger. “We know what works, and we need to scale up these effective prevention and treatment programs.” `

Scaling up treatment of wasting is a good investment. As is outlined in the No Wasted Lives, No Time to Waste advocacy brief, it has been estimated that the scale-up of treatment of severe acute malnutrition (SAM) would result in at least $25 billion in increases in economic productivity over the productive lifetimes of children who benefited from treatment programs, and each dollar invested in treatment would result in at least $4 in economic return.

Funding falls dramatically short of projected needs to scale up treatment of wasting. In 2015, an estimated $224 million was spent on treatment of SAM. Scaling up treatment for SAM would require an estimated $9.1 billion over 10 years.

Over the past four decades, significant advances have been made in the treatment of acute malnutrition Despite this, nearly 80 per cent of children affected by wasting do not have access to the treatment services they need. Treatment services need to be brought closer to the communities and scaled-up to ensure that no child is left behind.

“The good news is that clear and effective solutions exist that can expand access to treatment for children with acute malnutrition,” said Dr. Mesfin Teklu Tessema, Senior Director of Health at the International Rescue Committee. “Innovative approaches – for example those that combine and simplify the treatment approach and utilize Community Health Workers to deliver care – address some of the key issues around access and availability. By continuing to test these innovative approaches and generate evidence, we can make limited resources go further and reach more children with the life-saving treatment they need.”

“Four years into the SDGs, we are at a critical moment and need to jumpstart progress towards meeting wasting targets,” said Grace Funnell, interim Technical Director for Action Against Hunger. “Governments must act now to increase investment in the prevention and treatment of acute malnutrition through scaling up community-based treatment programs and other innovations that have shown to expand coverage.”

This joint statement was released by Action Against Hunger, the innocent foundation, and the International Rescue Committee prior to the United Nations High-Level Meeting on Accelerating the Implementation of the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development.

Action Against Hunger is the world’s hunger specialist and leader in a global movement that aims to end life-threatening hunger for good within our lifetimes. For 40 years, the humanitarian and development organization has been on the front lines, treating and preventing hunger across nearly 50 countries. It served more than 21 million people in 2018 alone.