With a selection of powerful photographs, we reflect on the past year - a year that challenged, stregthened, and inspired us. We pay tribute to the courage and dignity of people and communities on the frontlines of the fight against malnutrition. We celebrate progress and mark 40 years of Action Against Hunger, even as we recognize all of the work ahead to ensure that no child dies of hunger, ever again. Last but never least, we honor the memories of the colleagues we tragically lost this year and speak up for the protection of aid workers around the world.
The world needs a better way to deal with hunger. Together, we’re creating it, for everyone, for good. And we will never give up - until the world is free from hunger.
The Indian Constitution guarantees a special status to the country’s tribal populations, safeguarding their rights and cultures. Yet, millions of tribal people suffer from poverty and malnutrition. Migration is one of the drivers of inequity for these groups: poor families are forced to move from place to place to earn an income, cutting them off from services including health care, education, and more.
In the Sahariya tribe, many families migrate for seasonal work - traveling constantly between harvests of wheat, rice, sugar cane, and cotton and working in mines, railways, forests, and construction projects. In this photo, a member of the Sahariya tribe, Ameera, carries her children. Her family has migrated to live near a river, where they collect sand for construction projects and earn less than $2 a day. Two of her seven children are malnourished.
"Children are the most affected. Constant migration in search of livelihoods and adverse weather conditions aggravate their suffering. Health and medical care services in tribal areas have been neglected...To close the gap, it is necessary to recognize the problem and a roadmap for the future," explains Sachin Sharma, project coordinator for Action Against Hunger in Baran, where we have been working with migrant communities since 2011.
Most of the water points near Tesso Qelo, a village in Borena, southern Ethiopia, dried up during the 2019 drought. There were just two left, and they were three hours away on foot.
Each day, Garbicha and his eldest son herded the family’s cows - the family's livelihood - in a quest for water that took hours to fetch. “This situation is very serious. Although we have grass now, if there is no water, our cattle will die,” says Garbicha.
“If they die, what will we live on?” asks his wife, Gordo. To help families cope, Action Against Hunger teams treat and prevent malnutrition in their village, improve hygiene to prevent disease outbreaks, and support livelihoods through a “Cash for Work” program.
Another way we partner with families in East Africa: community savings groups, which empower women to earn and save more income. “Before, we depended completely on our husbands,” says Gordo, who started a business selling spices with support from her local savings group. “Now, we can make use of this money for emergencies or even to help other women who are going through difficult times. We have achieved some economic independence.”
"I saw that my baby was not well, she didn't want to eat anymore,” says Hawa, mother of Zeinam. “I couldn't wait at home, doing nothing. I took her to the health center near my home and then we needed to come here [to the hospital] to stay until she is healed."
"Illness is always the problem of means. My husband doesn’t have enough money to buy enough food,” she continued. “I ran out of milk for Zeinam. But now the health staff says she is fine, they gave her the treatments to cure her."
If a child is severely malnourished or faces medical complications, we admit him or her to a hospital for inpatient treatment. Sometimes, a child like Zeinam is so malnourished that they no longer want to eat and have to be treated with F100, a special milk formula developed by Action Against Hunger scientists in 1993. Once they recover some of their strength and appetite, they switch from the milk treatment to Plumpy’Nut, a peanut paste filled with nutrients and calories that they will continue to eat after they are discharged.
In 2019, we at Action Against Hunger were thrilled to welcome our new CEO, Dr. Charles Owubah. An academic and experienced development professional, Dr. Owubah joined our organization in May, bringing deep technical expertise in collaborating with local communities on sustainable water and food security programs, delivering emergency relief, and promoting child survival across a global footprint.
Within his first month at Action Against Hunger, Dr. Owubah traveled to Uganda to meet with some of our teams in the field and see our work in action. On his visit, he was inspired after meeting Lucy, a refugee in Uganda who has started a successful mushroom-growing business with support from our food security programs: “What struck me most about her was her clear joy and pride in being able to make a better life for herself and her family.”
For the last five years, Hakmata Hadi has cultivated her plot of land in Chad with her husband, her daughters, and support from Action Against Hunger. Together, they grow nutritious crops, healthy food for their family - and hope:
"I grow all kinds of vegetables and grains, according to the seasons: corn, tomatoes, chili, wheat, garlic, onions, beets, cassava, eggplant, watermelon, peppers. I also have some date palms, a lemon tree, a mango tree and I have planted moringa trees, their leaves are very good for health."
In many low-income countries, women farmers comprise more than half of agricultural labor. It’s estimated that giving women farmers more resources could decrease the number of hungry people in the world by 100-150 million people.
Kobesa, a community in Isiolo County, Kenya, is remote and arid - the nearest water source is a shallow well, five miles away. For several months in 2019, this shallow well became shallower by the day: severe drought caused significant food and water shortages across many counties in Kenya.
“We don’t have enough food and water,” says Fatuma, a mother of five children in Kobesa. “I’m worried about the health of my children.” Her nine-month-old son Ami fell ill with malnutrition: he was weak and feverish, and refused to breastfeed. She took him to the nearest health clinic, where our team immediately placed him on a course of treatment to help him recover his health.
Fatuma’s story is all too common in Kobesa. “Due to the drought, there has been an increase in the number of children treated for diarrhea and malnutrition,” explained Asli Jattan, an Action Against Hunger-trained community health volunteer.
Our teams support many of the health clinics in Isiolo County, training staff and to ensure they are stocked with lifesaving supplies. To strengthen communities’ capacity to respond to drought, we screened and treated malnourished children, improved food security and livelihoods, increased access to clean water and safe sanitation, and provided cash to improve local markets and help families buy what they needed to survive.
In this portrait, 38-year-old Areej - one of Action Against Hunger’s Food Security team leads in Jordan - sits with her family outside their home. More than 1.3 million Syrians have sought refuge in Jordan, straining the country’s economy and infrastructure. Our programs work to ensure access to water, sanitation, and hygiene, improve food security and livelihoods, and support mental health care.
“The conventional role of women is staying in the home and taking care of it, but now women go to work and have other responsibilities,” says Areej, who oversees a waste-management program that provides income to vulnerable populations that include host communities and refugees. “I would like to change the rights of women to have equal opportunity. Women here in Jordan don’t have most of their rights and I hope that in the future, Jordanian women will have the rights and the respect that they deserve.”
“Hunger is predictable, preventable and treatable,” says Fardosa Hussein, our Communications Manager in Somalia. “Saving a child’s life starts with a simple band, and we are committed to gear up and deal with hunger.”
That simple band - technically known as the mid-upper arm circumference (MUAC) band and the inspiration behind our Band Together campaign - is a tool that health workers and parents use to detect malnutrition in children outside of traditional hospitals and health centers. They wrap the band around a child’s arm, and the color code indicates if they are healthy or malnourished and in need of treatment.
In 2019, our teams trained more than 3,000 mothers in southwestern Somalia - like the women in the photo above - how to use this lifesaving band to ensure that more children are diagnosed and treated, before it is too late.
When 18-month-old Ousmane arrived at our Nutrition Center within Selibaby Hospital in Mauritania, he could barely keep his eyes open - he was so sick and weak from malnutrition. His mother, Aminata, was exhausted and desperate to save her son.
Within a few days of treatment, the little boy was wide awake, laughing, crying, and playing again. "Since I left my village, at every moment, I thought my child was going to die. Only now, when I see his eyes open again, have I have found hope again,” said Aminata.
Late in 2019, after months of severe drought, unprecedented flooding swept across many communities in East Africa. The heavy rains and winds destroyed homes and farms, washed out roads, and displaced hundreds of thousands of families.
Action Against Hunger’s teams in Kenya, Somalia, and South Sudan responded, and continue to help people in need recover - providing emergency supplies, preventing outbreaks of water-borne disease, and more. In this photo, our intrepid assessment team in Aweil, South Sudan, are measuring the damage to understand how the floods impacted communities. With this information, partners were better able and to organize an appropriate emergency response.
When people band together, we can achieve incredible things. People-powered movements drive progress in every generation. That’s why, in 2019, we were proud to launch a new campaign, where all of us can band together against hunger - a disease that threatens the lives of 50 million children each year.
On World Food Day, our Band Together campaign – a movement of activists, students, celebrities, foodies, companies, and people like you from New York to Nairobi - kicked off with a goal to ensure that all children suffering from deadly hunger can access lifesaving medical treatment.
Saving the lives of malnourished children starts with a simple band. The band acts as a nutrition thermometer: a parent or health worker uses the color code to learn if their child suffers from malnutrition: green indicates good health, but yellow or red means the child is malnourished. This band and its colors are the symbol of our campaign, represented in our Band Together bracelets.
Every bracelet worn and every action taken in support of our campaign helps to empower more parents to detect malnutrition in their children, at home - helping to ensure that they get the treatment they need to survive and grow up strong.
In a health center in Bacabo, Ivory Coast, a woman waits, close to giving birth. Since Action Against Hunger’s program here began in 2013, there has been a significant increase in both antenatal consultations - from 57 to 90% - and in assisted births - from 60 to 89%).
To mark Action Against Hunger’s 40th anniversary, photographer Guillaume Binet worked with our teams to host photography workshops for community members in Ivory Coast and elsewhere, teaching women and men how to show the world “what they see” and to tell their own stories through a camera lens. “Being a photographer teaches you a lot about life,” he wrote in the book of photos published as part of the project.
Claudia was looking forward to celebrating her grandson Robert’s birthday. Just a few months before this photo was taken, she wasn’t sure if he would make it: he nearly lost his life to severe acute malnutrition.
When Elizabeth, one of Action Against Hunger’s Community Health Volunteers, came to Claudia’shome in Tanzania, she could see Robert’s health failing and urged the family to seek medical care for him. Eventually, Claudia brought her grandson to a health facility and then to the hospital, where he stayed and received treatment for more than a month.
After Robert’s health improved and he gained weight, he went home. Now in good health, he is happy, playful, and learning to walk—things he could not do before. Elizabeth checks on Robert often, talking with his grandmother about nutrition, hygiene, and sanitation.
Robert’s grandmother now sees a future that was once hard to imagine. “My dream for Robert is that he will grow up to become a doctor and support others the way he was helped,” she said.
“We have heard lots of stories of unspeakable brutality. Some of the cases I have seen have been very complicated and the challenges refugees face are unbearable. I feel good that they are in a safe place now. There is someone beside them who cares about them. I always see some smiling and encouraging faces, and that’s what makes me get up every morning.," says Shaki Rani Bose, an Action Against Hunger Health Education Officer.
In Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, Shaki supports hundreds of pregnant and breastfeeding mothers - Rohingya women who were displaced by violence in their home country of Myanmar two years ago.
Between 2010 and 2018, there were more than 800,000 suspected cases and nearly 10,000 identified deaths from cholera in Haiti. But since February 2019, there have been zero confirmed cases, and official eradication is finally within reach. The battle against this epidemic has been long and difficult, but our team is filled with hope as they look to the future.
“Now, it feels like we can see the light at the end. We are no longer afraid, because we are prepared to face this head on and we can see the difference we are making in communities,” says Véline Sévère, head of our Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene (WASH) team in Haiti.
Every day, aid workers put their lives on the line to reach vulnerable populations with lifesaving humanitarian assistance in the most world’s most dangerous areas. In 2019, an estimated 300 aid workers were involved in serious security incidents - in targeted attacks, they were wounded, kidnapped or killed in violation of international humanitarian law.
At Action Against Hunger, these are more than statistics: they represent our friends and colleagues, who lost their lives in Yemen, Nigeria, and Ethiopia in service of others. We mourn with their families, honor their memories, and stand up to protect humanitarians everywhere.