who we work with: Action Against Hunger

The organisation

Action Against Hunger is an international humanitarian organisation committed to ending child hunger. Every day they work to save the lives of malnourished children, and with 35 years of expertise in situations of conflict, natural disaster and chronic food insecurity, they meet the immediate and long term needs of millions of children and families worldwide. In 2014 alone, they helped over 13.6 million people in 47 countries.

Poor nutrition can permanently affect mental and physical growth in the early years of a child’s life, robbing whole communities of a future. Action Against Hunger aims to build on their core strengths of saving the lives of malnourished children and responding to natural and man-made disasters, whilst also addressing the underlying causes. One way they do this is by leading Generation Nutrition, an ambitious global campaign bringing together civil society organisations and their supporters to end child deaths from acute malnutrition

Despite significant progress, malnutrition is still the underlying cause of an unacceptable number of child deaths and illnesses. The most serious kind, severe acute malnutrition, is estimated to affect at least 17 million children worldwide. Horrifyingly, only 1 in 10 of those children currently receives the treatment they need, often because they are too far from the nearest treatment centre. Together, the innocent foundation and Action Against Hunger aim to change this globally.

The project

We searched long and hard to find the right partner for our first ever breakthrough development grant. When we met Action Against Hunger, we quickly realised that they were special. Why? Not just because their experts have been at the forefront of the fight against child hunger since the 1970s, but because they employ incredibly smart people and encourage them to pursue ambitious ideas, challenge the status quo and take risks other organisations would shy away from. They aren’t afraid to try new approaches and then shout about what they’ve discovered.

So we’re delighted to be working with them on a ground-breaking project to find out how we can increase the proportion of severely acutely malnourished children treated globally by transforming access to treatment services. The research aims to prove that treatment by community health workers can reach a far higher proportion of cases in a more cost-effective way and with the same quality of care as that given to children treated at a health facility. We’re testing the idea in Pakistan and Mali, both countries heavily burdened with severe acute malnutrition and with community health workers in place.

The Pakistan study is examining the impact of integrating early identification and treatment of acute malnutrition with a basic package of child health interventions delivered by Lady Health Workers in the Sindh Province. In Mali, the study is comparing the effectiveness, coverage, quality of care and cost-effectiveness of treatment services provided at clinical facilities with treatment provided by trained Community Health Workers in the Kayes region.

The research project will reach approximately 5,000 children in Mali and Pakistan, but the implications if the project is successful are much broader. If we can prove that you can reach more children more effectively and at the same or lower cost by working through community health workers, then we can change the way Ministries of Health all over the world treat severe acute malnutrition. And that could have a massive impact on those 17 million children suffering right now.