Mia Farrow has returned from Chad where she visited malnutrition programs run by the International Rescue Committee (IRC). In her role as an IRC Voice, Farrow is calling for the humanitarian community to collaborate on the development of more effective solutions to treat acute malnutrition. An estimated 1.1 million children are currently suffering from acute malnutrition in Chad, most of whom don’t have access to treatment.

Farrow visited sites in the Guera region where IRC is working to increase access to treatment of malnutrition by piloting a new, more efficient approach. Under the current model, children are divided into severe and moderate categories and are treated with different products administered by different United Nations agencies. IRC’s pilot uses a simplified diagnosis and treatment approach, and only one treatment product. Due to this simplfication, it can be administered by community health workers (CHWs) in the health clinic, as opposed to medical professionals. The eventual goal is for diagnosis and treatment to be delivered directly in communities by the CHWs.

Farrow said, “there are 50 million children under five years old throughout the world suffering from acute malnutrition, and only 20% of them have access to treatment. This proves that the existing method for treating them it is not effective enough. In over 25 visits to sub-Saharan Africa, I’ve witnessed the profound suffering of children from preventable and treatable conditions like malnutrition. This trip was different, because for the first time I can see there’s a way to reach every child. IRC’s approach is simple, cheaper and more compassionate. I now know what’s possible when NGOs, UN agencies and governments unite for a common goal.”

The pilot is being implemented in partnership with the Chad Ministry of Public Health and is supported by UNICEF, WFP and ECHO. The program is also being piloted in Mali where CHWs are delivering care directly in communities. Findings from previous studies testing IRC’s approach show that it works and is more cost-effective, and in Mali, early results are showing a 96% recovery.  

The IRC began working in Chad in 2004 in response to the humanitarian crisis caused by the influx of Sudanese refugees. The IRC is currently providing assistance to nearly 400,000 clients – refugees, internally displaced and vulnerable populations - responding to armed conflict, climatic events and gender inequality. Farrow’s visit to Chad was her second as an IRC voice, following her visit to South Sudan earlier this year where she met with community health workers who treat a range of childhood diseases.

To learn more about IRC’s approach to malnutrition, click here.

To view and download images from the trip, click here.