The IRC, along with World Vision, Save the Children, Eleanor Crook Foundation, Concern Worldwide, Children's Investment Fund Foundation, Amref Health Africa, Alliance for International Medical Action, and Action Against Hunger, endorses the following statement on World Food Day. See the statement PDF here or read below: 

Acute malnutrition is a major global public health threat. At least 50 million children under five suffer from acute malnutrition (an extreme loss of weight that impairs health), and nearly 50% of under five deaths are driven by malnutrition.  Acute malnutrition has been – and remains – highly treatable and preventable. Yet, despite the existence of life-saving treatment and two decades of work to reach those in need, current strategies reach less than 20% of affected children with care.

Today, on World Food Day, we are at a critical crossroads. We can choose to stay the course, leaving an estimated 80% of acutely malnourished children untreated. Or we can transform the system and save millions of lives.

What’s holding us back?

The problem is four-fold:

  1. The current approach to treating acute malnutrition is fragmented and unnecessarily complicated with moderate and severe acute malnutrition treated separately in systems overseen by two different UN agencies.
  2. Diagnosis and treatment for acute malnutrition is complicated and confined to health facilities meaning the burden is on the parents and their children to travel long distances to access life-saving care.  
  3. Funding for acute malnutrition treatment does not match the scale of the crisis.
  4. There is a lack of national ownership with ministries’ of health and finance often failing to adequately prioritize nutrition related policies and budget lines.

We see these challenges every day in the countries and communities where we work. Political will and financial investment is urgently needed to address each of these barriers.

We, a group of leading humanitarian and development organizations working in some of the hardest to reach places, are calling on world leaders – from UN officials to Ministries of Health – to accelerate action toward a more effective, efficient and accessible treatment system that leaves no child behind.  

The time is ripe for action and accountability.

This past July, leaders from across the United Nations system announced they would develop a Global Action Plan on Wasting by the end of 2019 with a roadmap to address acute malnutrition.

This represents a critical first step toward the reform needed -- we are eager to see this commitment translated into tangible action with treatment adequately addressed.

With less than two months until the UN shares the most comprehensive plan on wasting in recent history, here are our recommendations for what the Global Action Plan (GAP) must include:

And because we all have a responsibility, we stand ready to work together to ensure the Global Action Plan is ambitious, time bound, and offers concrete steps for addressing the realities of the crisis; to hold leadership accountable to the commitments made; to continue strengthening our programs, strategies, and partnerships that put a premium on expanding access to both curative and preventative services; and to advocate with Ministries of Health and Finance to see these solutions adopted into national health and nutrition action plans and budgets.

Now is the time to turn good will into action and to give this neglected health issue the attention and resources it deserves and requires. Some global crises seem insurmountable. But this isn’t one of them.  As we stand at this crossroads, we know we cannot stay the course.  We must seize the opportunity presented by the GAP to positively disrupt the status quo.

Now is the time to act.


* Defining an optimal treatment protocol will still require additional research and evidence.