A tribute to the courage and dignity of people and communities on the frontlines of the fight against malnutrition.
The world needs a better way to deal with hunger. Together, from Cambodia to Somalia, Iraq to Niger, we're creating it. For everyone. For good.
Much of their work involves assessing health and nutrition among children under five and pregnant women. If they find a case of malnutrition, they refer the family to the closest health center for treatment.
Photographer Lys Arango on why she admires Clementine, Benjamin, and other volunteers she has met in her work: “Thanks to these volunteers, messages can really reach the communities. They do this work to improve the quality of life of their neighbors. They are aware of how malnutrition can affect their community and have decided to eradicate it -- with the support and training from Action Against Hunger, but also thanks to their will.”
Jenite Forrelus, Action Against Hunger nurse and health educator, trains mothers of children from six to 23 months on healthy care practices: "As a nurse educator, I love working with mothers and children on nutrition."
Our emergency response team met Hasan, a 34-year-old father of five, in a small, hand-built shack in Al-Garrahi. He is one of many displaced by the ravages of war in Yemen, trying to regain some semblance of a normal life. The conflict has caused an extreme shortage of affordable food, fuel, and medicines. Health centers lack resources and lose power frequently, too often resulting in tragedy.
“[My wife] Sumaya always gave birth at home, but when she was nine months pregnant, I took her to a healthcare center because there seemed to be something wrong with the baby,” said Hasan. “There was not enough specialized medical staff and there were several power cuts during the birth. They could not save her or the baby.”
“My neighbors call me the 'Loyal Man' because, after Sumaya died, I decided that I would devote myself to my children and play the role of mother and father at the same time. I have looked everywhere for work, without success. We are able to survive thanks to the support of our neighbors and aid from humanitarian organizations.”
When Dr. Maryam Abouacar first graduated with a degree in child psychology, her colleagues did not see her the value of her speciality. One day, she had a revelation. A child, thought to be terminally ill, opened his eyes wide and said, "Mom, I want milk."
These four words made a big impact on the psychologist: "I saw in him the desire to live and I understood that the fight does not end until the last second,” she says.
In this photograph, Maryam smiles at three babies recovering from acute malnutrition. The triplets’ mom is Aisha, a woman who was forced to beg so that her children could survive. Maryam met them on market day, and saw that the babies' lives were in grave danger. She immediately referred them to the hospital and then worked for weeks to help the children recover not only their nutritional status, but also their psychomotor development.
“The day I took the picture, Maryam was exultant and so proud to see those children come out of danger, as if they were her own children,” writes photographer Lys Arango. “That day they were discharged and Maryam personally took charge of accompanying them back home.”
Today, it’s estimated that nearly one million displaced Rohingya live in the area known as Cox’s Bazar. Though access to water, food, sanitation, medical care and other basic services have improved over the last year, living conditions are still appalling.
In 2018, the threat of monsoon season loomed large -- many of the temporary shelters are built in low-lying, deforested areas that face a high risk of flooding and landslides. At the same time, overcrowding, poverty, lack of access to resources, and poor sanitary conditions all contributed to the spread of diseases such as diarrhea, dysentery, respiratory illness, and malnutrition.
Action Against Hunger’s team of nearly 900 staff and more than 1,300 community volunteers work tirelessly to provide aid to vulnerable people. As of August, more than 700,000 people had benefited from our programs, which provide nutrition, water, sanitation and hygiene, mental support and care practices, food security and livelihoods.
Hudur was heavily impacted by the state of “pre-famine” declared in 2017. Prolonged drought and conflict have killed off many livestock in recent years -- causing vulnerable communities that are dependent on herding to lose their sources of income.
Action Against Hunger provides nutrition, health, livelihoods, water and sanitation programs to help women like Luley to get back on their feet.
While the conflict was officially declared over in late 2017, nearly two million people remain displaced. Their communities have been devastated and there is little to return home to: the conflict has destroyed water networks, razed fields, lack of health services in both rural and urban areas, and few resources or savings to start their lives again.
Action Against Hunger’s employment and livelihoods program in the region is twofold: it seeks to enable vulnerable people start earning again through skills trainings, while providing psychological counselling to help them overcome trauma and restore self-confidence.
“When you carry out this type of project, you need to consider the different needs of the people,” explains Andrea Bigio, Action Against Hunger Project Manager. “It is not only about technical needs such as money to start a business, but also about their psychological and emotional needs. We all need special support after a crisis to be able to face the difficulties and be able to begin our lives again.”
Northern Senegal and other countries in the Sahel region have become increasingly inhospitable due to the effects of climate change. In 2018, drought killed half of this area’s livestock, causing food insecurity for thousands of herders.
Malick, pictured here with his young daughter, learned how to use a Mid-Upper Arm Circumference (MUAC) tape to measure his children for malnutrition from one of our volunteers. In the foreground, his wife receives enriched flour to help ensure their children receive the necessary nutrients.
Typically in this region, fathers do not participate in these activities -- traditionally, mothers care for children, food, and household issues. That’s why our photographer, Lys Arango, was drawn to this family: “I liked seeing this father so committed and paying so much attention to instructions for using the MUAC tape. I also find the evolution of Action Against Hunger in the response to humanitarian crises admirable. Each day, they adapt better and faster to prevent the worst from happening.”
María Josefina explains the local seed bank has been “A great help. Now I have a little garden where I grow chard, beans, and medicinal plants. Today we eat much better -- my youngest son has even been named a model child for his good nutritional status," she adds proudly. "What I most want is a better future for my children."
Action Against Hunger Roving Communications Officer Lys Arango explains what is happening in this photo:
“María Josefina is doing the accounts of the seed bank. Until recently, this indigenous woman was illiterate. But thanks to her strength and determination, she has managed to overcome many barriers and is today an example for all. Action Against Hunger has given her an opportunity and she has proven to everyone that she can lead. She is doing wonderful work.”
Action Against Hunger reached millions of displaced Nigerians last year with nutrition, food security, and livelihoods programs. One of our programs, known as “The Porridge Moms,” consists of groups of about 15 mothers who meet daily and make nutritious meals for themselves and their young children. As they cook, the mothers and our staff share tips about nutrition, healthy childcare practices, and good hygiene. The group receives a monthly stipend to pay for food and other items.
Beyond the more tangible benefits, the Porridge Moms have found comfort, emotional support, and comradery with each other. Many have been through trauma to escape conflict -- the mothers groups are a way for them to share their experiences in a safe place.
Saide, the displaced mother of the girl in the photo above, says: “Porridge Moms gave me a sense of belonging. I can relate to my fellow mothers. We have been through similar painful situations. We visit each other often for chatting or simply sitting and listening to the radio together.”
In 2018, our COMMON project operated in villages throughout the Choam Ksant district, in Preah Vihear province, Northern Cambodia. According to a 2016 Action Against Hunger survey in the district, 34.9% of children suffer from chronic malnutrition and 6.7% are acutely malnourished.
The three-year project, launched in February 2017, is reaching 25,000 people across 22 villages -- with particular focus on women and children under five, like the girl in the photograph above. One of the project’s goals is to empower women to prevent hunger, partnering with them to increase female access to economic opportunities and to increase their agricultural skills. We also are training hundreds of public servants within local governments and thousands of civil society leaders on food security, nutrition, and more. Communities are involved every step of the way, ensuring their feedback and participation in all aspects of the program.
The family fled Syria in 2012, after ISIS took over their village. A year ago, their difficulties escalated: the oldest daughter, Sara, was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes and required expensive medicine. Shortly after, her father experienced a stroke and died.
“Life is difficult because this is not my country,” says Mariam. “I’m alone with my six girls.”
To earn enough income as her family’s sole breadwinner, Mariam has worked as a cleaner and sold off many of their possessions. Last year, she participated in Action Against Hunger’s waste management program, working as a trash collector and earning about $800 over 50 days.
Every month, Mariam worries about how she will support the household, but her daughters bring her joy. “When they get back from school, they all chatter about the day and their teachers,” she says. “The girls are the source of my happiness.”
Here, Sulaiman, Head of Logistics in South Sudan, shows what it takes to get supplies -- including everything from building materials for health centers to boxes of lifesaving treatment -- to the hard-to-reach communities we serve.
“This is the best part of my job...on my way to serve humanity,” says Sulaiman.
Here, the health promoter holds 8-month-old Keni Verónica, the youngest of Idonia Panioia’s children. Keni Verónica is anemic -- another sign of poor diet and nutrition -- but is on her way to recovery.
"I cannot afford despair -- we can not afford despair. While there is so much in the world that can make one unhappy, and worried, it's also important to remember that there's so much kindness still in the world, and there's so much generosity. There are people doing wonderful things, and an example of that is being here today, and being reminded that there are human beings who understand that we are all better off if our fellow human beings are better off."