As the UK government hosts the Global Food Security Summit in London, the International Rescue Committee (IRC) is calling on the UK and participating governments to endorse a new and simplified approach to treating malnourished children, saying it will save costs and lives. 

The levels of food insecurity and malnutrition are skyrocketing globally, fuelled by factors including the climate crisis, the war in Ukraine and the long-term impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Concerted action to tackle food insecurity – one of the greatest risks to child survival globally - would reap lifesaving results. 

Based on a decade of research and experience, the IRC has found that simplifying treatment for the worst forms of malnutrition allows services and resources to stretch further. Delivering treatment to all children in need could save the lives of up to two million children under five. A streamlined approach to treatment can be delivered effectively by community health workers, far beyond the reach of health facilities. This solution is scalable, less expensive and proven to help more than 90 per cent of malnourished children recover. Among 27,800 children in Mali who were treated using a simplified protocol, 92 per cent recovered within weeks

Speaking at the Summit, president and CEO of the IRC, David Miliband will urge leaders to consider taking a new approach, endorsing the IRC’s simplified protocol and bringing traditional and new donors to the table, to save the lives of the most vulnerable as global food insecurity and malnutrition reach unprecedented levels. 

Ahead of discussions, he said:

“We are not just facing food insecurity, but are in the midst of a full-blown crisis, where up to two million children under five years old die every year from acute malnutrition. There is consensus that climate change, conflict and instability drive food insecurity, and as government belts tighten, it’s time the evidence was put into action. The IRC is advocating for a streamlined, cost-effective and lifesaving approach to malnutrition and we call on governments and partners participating in the Global Food Security Summit to implement the solutions we know work to save children’s lives. This summit is a key moment on the road to COP28, and must galvanise global collaboration to tackle today’s interconnected crises of climate change, conflict and food insecurity for future generations." 

Speaking from the region, Shashwat Saraf, IRC Regional Emergency Director for East Africa, added, 

“Countries in East Africa have long grappled with food insecurity due to a combination of factors, including conflict, climate change and economic instability leading to a situation where over 40 million people are struggling to access enough food to feed their families. The international community must act with urgency and solidarity to provide immediate relief and address the root causes of food insecurity. The IRC is committed to being at the forefront of this effort, but we cannot do it alone. The Global Food Security Summit offers a crucial opportunity to address this pressing issue and implement concrete solutions to alleviate the suffering of the people in the region." 

Conflict is the primary driver of food insecurity, exacerbated by the climate crisis, and the IRC is one of the only organisations highlighting the specific challenges facing climate-vulnerable, conflict-affected communities at COP28.  

Far from being on the periphery of the fight against climate change, these communities in conflict-affected, climate vulnerable countries increasingly represent the epicentre of the climate crisis. This handful of 16 countries represents: 

These alarming statistics underscore the stark reality faced by millions living in regions marred by conflict: overburdened by the disproportionate impact of climate change while receiving only one-third of the climate adaptation funding per capita compared to their stable counterparts- only further widening the gap.  

IRC programmes in this area include anticipatory action to climate hazards, supporting community-led natural resource management and water conservation, and training people in sustainable livelihoods – all while putting the needs of women and girls at the heart of our work. In Syria, the IRC is working directly with Syrian farmers to test and identify seeds most suited to a changing climate, multiplying and scaling these higher-yielding and climate-resilient seeds, and enhancing women’s participation in the agriculture sector to build a food system that is resilient to climate shocks. 

The IRC has a holistic approach to preventing and treating malnutrition: 

The IRC advocates for evidence-based system reform and sustained financing to close the wasting prevention and treatment gap to help ensure every child can access the services they need to survive and thrive.