In this issue of Alert, we focus on the neglected crisis of childhood malnutrition.
Last year alone, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) treated more than a quarter of a million malnourished children in 34 countries. As a medical organization, we know what infants and young children need to grow and develop. We know that when families cannot afford to provide the milk, eggs, fish, or meat that their children need, simple supplements or ready-to-use foods can mean the difference between life and death.
We also know that most food aid sent to developing countries is made up of poor quality foods—blends of soy and corn flours that carry little or no actual nutritional value. This food makes little difference for the 195 million children who suffer from malnutrition every year. It makes little difference for the three to five million children who die every year from causes related to malnutrition.
As staggering as the numbers is the fact that this crisis is so invisible to most of us, that so many children around the world are suffering and dying from a medical condition that we know is both treatable and preventable.
That is why MSF has been actively advocating for changes to food aid policies as well as to treatment and prevention protocols. That is why we partnered this year with the VII Photo Agency to document seven different responses to malnutrition in seven different parts of the world. The result is “Starved for Attention,” a multimedia exhibit that was launched in New York City this past June. The exhibit has already been shown in Europe and Canada and will reach other destinations in the coming months.
Some of the situations captured in the exhibit are shared in this issue of Alert—families in Bangladesh and India struggling to feed their children or a family in eastern Congo whose infant son is hospitalized in an MSF clinic. There are success stories from Mexico and the US and heartbreaking tales from Burkina Faso and Djibouti of young mothers doing all they can to keep their children alive.
We invite you to visit this exhibit at www.StarvedForAttention.org. We also invite you to sign our online petition asking international donor countries, including the US, to stop sending substandard food to children in need and to commit to providing them with the nutrient-rich food they must have to survive and thrive.
Thank you for your ongoing support, which enables MSF’s medical teams to treat hundreds of thousands of malnourished children across the globe and helps us raise our voices on behalf of the world’s most vulnerable children.
Executive Director, MSF-USA