Doctors Without Borders – Starved For Attention

On June 2, 2010 the international medical humanitarian organization Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) and the VII Photo Agency launched “Starved for Attention,” a global multimedia campaign presenting a unique and new perspective of childhood malnutrition, a preventable and treatable condition that nonetheless claims the lives of millions of children each year.

Most of the damage caused by malnutrition occurs in children before they reach their second birthday. This is the critical window of opportunity, when the quality of a child’s diet has a profound, sustained impact on his or her health, and on physical and mental development.

The Grim Statistics on Malnutrition

  • 195 million children less than 5 years of age are affected by malnutrition
  • 20 million of these children suffer from severe acute malnutrition (SAM)
  • 90% of them are currently living in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia
  • The World Bank estimates $12 billion a year is needed for nutrition programs
  • Yet only $350 million was spent on direct nutrition programs in 2007

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Doctors Without Borders, Starved for Attention, Camp

Democratic Republic of Congo, 2009 © Franco Pagetti/VII

Understanding the Problem

Malnutrition, specifically undernutrition, is a serious medical condition marked by a deficiency of essential proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals in a diet. It is especially burdensome and dangerous for young, growing children and plays a significant role in mortality because the immune systems of malnourished children are less resistant to common diseases.

In fact, malnutrition contributes to one-third of the eight million deaths of children under five years of age every year.  To maintain healthy growth and development, infants and young children need energy furnished by high-quality protein such as milk, eggs, and fish, essential fats and carbohydrates, as well as vitamins and minerals.

The Role of Doctors Without Borders

In 2009, Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) medical teams treated 250,000 children suffering from acute malnutrition in 116 programs in 34 countries, primarily with nutrient dense ready-to-use foods, which, while more expensive than foods currently provided by the food aid system, actually work to prevent and cure severe malnutrition—and can be used on a very large scale. Currently, MSF is operating 120 nutrition programs in 36 countries.

At any given time, an estimated 195 million children are affected by malnutrition worldwide. It contributes to at least one-third of the eight million annual deaths of children under five years of age. These deaths are preventable if the nutritional requirements of young children are met.

Doctors Without Borders, Starved for Attention, Mother

Democratic Republic of Congo, 2009 © Franco Pagetti/VII

Solving the dire reality of malnutrition is part of creating a sustainable world!