Fighting malnutrition in Ethiopia
Tools as simple as a weighing scale are saving lives
Nutrition: The Foundation of Life.
Nutrition is the foundation of life. Malnutrition, both chronic and acute, contributed to 3.1 million deaths of children under 5 in 2015 –more than a third of all deaths in that age group.
Inadequate nutrition also carries enormous social and economic costs, leaving more than 165 million children with stunted growth, compromised cognitive development and poor physical health. Childhood malnutrition reduces an individual’s future earnings by at least 20% and robs some of the world’s poorest countries of at least 8% of GDP. The tragedy is that malnutrition is both preventable and treatable if tackled in time.
International Medical Corps’ approach to nutrition is holistic and includes both the prevention and treatment of malnutrition. We work to strengthen nutrition programs at national, local, and community levels in some of the world’s most challenging environments. Our prevention strategies focus on vulnerable groups, including: adolescents, pregnant and nursing women and children under 2. Our curative strategies focus on children under 5 and pregnant and nursing women.
Our food security and livelihood programs assist these vulnerable groups in growing nutrient-rich foods and diversifying their diets.
- An estimated 45% of deaths among children under 5 occur from malnutrition.
- Approximately 50 million children around the world are acutely malnourished, 159 million are stunted, but 41 million children are obese.
- At least 12 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) contain indicators linked with nutrition, reflecting its importance.
Areas of focus
Nutrition is pivotal to life and growth. At no time is it more important than during the first 1000 days of life, from conception until a child’s second birthday. Suboptimal nutrition during this window of opportunity deprives a child from reaching full potential.
It can cause impaired physical and cognitive development and can lead to increased nutrition-related morbidity and mortality, increased risk of developing non-communicable diseases later in life, as well as decreased IQ and school performance resulting in lower life-time earnings. All these could be attributed to malnutrition.
In addition, malnutrition during childhood can have an effect on generations to come because malnourished adolescent girls might have a sub-optimal nutrition status during pregnancy that leads to low birthweight babies, who in turn experience malnutrition during their childhood. Collectively, high levels of malnutrition among a country’s children can reduce the national gross domestic product. It is therefore important to break this intergenerational cycle of malnutrition with appropriate nutrition and food security interventions.
- Micronutrient deficiencies are widespread with around 800 million children and women affected by anaemia.
- Children not exclusively breastfed up to 6 months are 14% more likely to die before the age of 5 than those who are exclusively breastfed.
- Treatment of acute malnutrition is the most cost-effective nutrition intervention to prevent child mortality with the potential to save more than 900,000 lives per year.
Food security exists when people have access to sufficient, safe and nutritious food on a sustained basis that meets their dietary needs for an active and healthy life. This definition is best summarized in the four pillars necessary to achieve food security: availability, access, utilization and stability. Food availability depends on local food production, imports, assistance, food stocks and what is for sale in markets. Access to food may be both economic (having the money to buy it) or physical (reachable and unobstructed access).
Utilisation is the nutritious benefit from the food consumed. The degree to which the body can absorb the nutrients depends on many factors including age, health condition, and the availability of potable water. Stability is a measure of how constant the three factors noted above remain. and how they can be influenced by risk factors to food security.
International Medical Corps’ food security programs are designed around two priorities: strengthening the ability of women to provide nutritious foods for their families and increasing access to nutritious foods.
- In just 4 countries--South Sudan, Nigeria, Somalia and Yemen—a combined 30 million people struggle each day to find food.
- In Tanzania, estimated agricultural sector losses due to climate change total about $200 annually.
- Around 108 million people in 48 countries faced severe acute food insecurity in 2016, an alarming increase from 80 million just one year earlier.
A livelihood constitutes the ability to make a living. A livelihood is sustainable when it can survive the stress and shocks of the surrounding environment, while not undermining the natural resource base.
For nearly 30 years, International Medical Corps has provided livelihoods assistance to enable communities to recover from disaster. In the face of conflict or natural disaster, vulnerable populations tend to deplete their wealth‚ including livestock, seeds, and household goods in order to survive and be able to buy necessities such as food, medicine, and clothing, pay for school fees and essential services critical to living a healthy life.
Because of this, livelihood protection and promotion is central to International Medical Corps’ mission of supporting a swift recovery from disaster and strengthening local capacity to soften the impact of future shocks. We provide assistance that includes expanded temporary income-earning opportunities. To do this, we focus on rebuilding, expanding and diversifying the centres of wealth that communities draw on for their livelihoods.
Our approach includes skills training, cash grants, cash for work, and the protection and replenishment of livestock. In cash-for-work schemes, International Medical Corps often hires local health professionals to fill critical gaps. Local men and women work as community health workers, and local residents assist with post-disaster reconstruction and rehabilitation of key infrastructure. A critical part of our livelihood support strategy is providing skills training to health professionals, unemployed youths and farmers to boost their ability to earn income or produce the food they need to survive following a disaster.
- Just over a quarter (26%) of women employed worldwide are the main source of their household income.
- About 1.5 billion people in the world’s 102 developing countries live in poverty.
- A total of 42% of the worlds poor depend on degraded land for their income.