Helping you understand hunger and malnutrition
A nurse weighs a malnourished child at a Plan-supported feeding centre, where children and lactating mothers come to receive nutrient-rich food to improve their health in Ethiopia.
Hunger pangs. We’ve all been there, and it’s not fun! But did you know hunger kills more people every year than AIDS, malaria and tuberculosis combined? Yup, it’s the number one health risk in the world, and 842 million people around the world do not have enough to eat. 98% - or 827 million people - live in developing countries.
What does malnutrition mean?
Clearly, hunger is a big problem. It is also measured in different ways. Here’s a quick tip sheet to help you wrap your brain around this global crisis:
- Malnutrition: occurs when an individual is not getting enough food or not getting enough of the right kind of food - not enough protein, energy and nutrients. When someone is malnourished, they become physically impaired to the point where they can no longer maintain adequate bodily performance or fight disease.
- Food insecurity: this means people lack sustainable physical or economic access to enough safe, nutritious, and socially acceptable food, to maintain a healthy and productive life.
- Causes of food insecurity: poverty, food shortages, natural disasters, war and displacement, and unstable markets.
Okay, so how do we treat malnutrition?
There are various ways to treat malnutrition and hunger. Depending on the vulnerability of the region, one of the following feeding programs can be implemented:
- Supplementary feeding: food is provided to a select group of people to treat malnutrition, and it is often the primary strategy for prevention and treatment of malnutrition.
- Targeted feeding: used to treat a group of individuals who have been deemed moderately malnourished after various assessments, like measuring a child’s upper arm or body weight. This group often includes children under the age of five, and pregnant or lactating mothers.
- Blanket feeding: is applied to improve the nutritional status of individuals in a pre-defined vulnerable group or geographic area. This means malnutrition rates are high for everyone in the group, not just children. This method is often used in the early stages of an emergency or disaster.
- Therapeutic care: cases of severe malnutrition are addressed through therapeutic care, where malnourished children are provided with nutrient-dense food for extended periods of time.
What is Plan doing to keep communities food secure?
A Plan staff member in Cameroon uses a colour-coded measuring band to measure a child’s upper arm which determines their level of malnutrition.
Plan works with partners in the field to keep communities food secure by implementing food assistance projects, some of which include:
- School feeding for children in grades 1-6
- Distributing take-home rations for girls in grades 4-6
- Targeted supplementary feeding for malnourished pregnant and lactating women, children under the age of 5, and people living with HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis.
- Blanket feeding for children under the age of 2.
- Food for work, where recipients carry out manual labour projects to repair their communities in exchange for food.
Plan also works to ensure there are long-term solutions to food insecurity in many of the communities where we work. These programs may include food-generating projects, like building school and community gardens, managing livestock, as well as income-generating projects, like skills training and microfinance.
You can help us keep children and their families healthy.