On World Food Day, Action Against Hunger and 11 other nonprofit leaders issued an urgent letter calling on the United Nations to transform the current global approach to treating acutely malnourished children. The groups came together in a bid to reverse rising rates of hunger, which is responsible for nearly half of all child deaths, and now threatens to claim the lives of 10,000 more children each month due to the secondary impacts of COVID-19.
The humanitarians’ call comes soon after the release of new evidence that a streamlined approach to treating malnourished children – one that involves a single program for all children, regardless of the severity of their condition – is just as effective as traditional approaches, at a significant reduction in cost.
“The world needs a better way to deal with hunger,” said Dr. Charles Owubah, CEO, Action Against Hunger. “Together, we can roll out new evidence-based solutions to treat dangerously malnourished children and accelerate innovative programs to prevent hunger by addressing its root causes. Without urgent action, we fear that child mortality could rise for the first time in 60 years.”
The most dangerous form of hunger, acute malnutrition, disproportionately impacts young children. Action Against Hunger was an early pioneer in developing an approach to treatment that can return nine out of 10 children to full health, typically in 45 days. However, current strategies reach fewer than one-third of children in need.
“United Nations agencies and national governments alike must maintain and increase resources for health systems – including investing in critical areas which are important for closing equity gaps and ensuring that every child can access the treatment they need,” the NGOs state in their global call to action.
To address hunger’s disproportionate impact on young children, the letter also calls attention to “the deep, and increasing, need for nutrition funding.” Along with Action Against Hunger, other signatories include: International Rescue Committee, CARE, 1,000 Days, HarvestPlus, Bread for the World, RESULTS Canada, KANCO, Concern Worldwide, Save the Children, World Vision, and the Eleanor Crook Foundation.
The statement comes on the heels of the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to the UN World Food Program for its efforts to combat hunger and prevent the use of hunger as a weapon of war.
“We commend the Nobel Committee for recognizing the relationship between food security and peace, said Michelle Brown, Associate Director of Advocacy for Action Against Hunger. “More than half of the world’s hungry people live in countries affected by conflict, where hunger is increasingly used as a weapon of war, with indiscriminate attacks on croplands, water structures, and food and livestock storage, which violate international humanitarian law. Hunger and armed conflict have become a vicious cycle, yet it is one that we can, and must, break to achieve the goal of zero hunger as well as lasting peace.”
The Nobel Committee noted, “The world is in danger of experiencing a hunger crisis of inconceivable proportions if the World Food Programme and other food assistance organizations do not receive the financial support they have requested.” Before COVID-19, nearly 690 million people globally faced hunger. Now, the UN predicts an additional 130 million people could face concerning levels of hunger by the end of the year.
“People are hungry, and they need our help,” said Brown. “A massive, coordinated response by governments and civil society is required, now. Only a well-fed world can be a world at peace.”