Why it Matters
Malnutrition is responsible for more ill health worldwide than any other cause. Today, 820 million worldwide are undernourished—one in every nine people. Yet this statistic only accounts for the number of people who do not get a sufficient daily intake of calories. Enough calories—or food—does not mean enough nutritious food. Micronutrients like vitamin A, folate, iron, and zinc are vital.
One in every three women of reproductive age is affected by anemia, much of which is caused by inadequate nutrition. Among pregnant women, severe anemia from iron deficiency can cause premature delivery, low birth weight, and maternal and child deaths. It doesn’t have to be this way. Malnutrition is preventable and treatable.
Malnutrition is the single greatest threat to child survival today, contributing to more than 45 percent of all child deaths worldwide.
Unlocking Invaluable Potential and Saving Lives
Good nutrition is also an essential driver of economic growth. Each year, malnutrition costs the global economy an estimated $3.5 trillion in healthcare costs and lost productivity. Yet the World Bank estimates that for every $1 invested in nutrition, a country can expect a $16 return in economic and health benefits.
Evidence shows that a set of high-impact nutrition actions can save hundreds of thousands of lives annually.
Our Focus: Addressing Root Causes
We target the direct and indirect causes of malnutrition that threaten the health and well-being of infants, young children, and mothers. These include hidden hunger, which happens when pregnant women and young children don’t get the right micronutrients like iron and vitamin A that are vital to fighting disease and ensuring healthy growth and development.
Other major causes of malnutrition among mothers and young children are disease, poor diet and insufficient access to nutritious food, inadequate health care, unsafe drinking water, and poor knowledge of the vital care and feeding practices that are necessary for a healthy start during the first 1,000 days between a woman’s pregnancy and a child’s second birthday.
For more than a century, Helen Keller Intl has led the way in developing, testing, and scaling up low-cost health care solutions that transform lives. Backed by the best available science and technical expertise, we work with local partners in 20 countries to tackle issues of great scale, including malnutrition and preventable blindness, that disproportionally affect the world’s most vulnerable.
Our Solutions: Prioritizing Prevention
The solutions we prioritize include exclusive breastfeeding, educating caregivers about good nutrition and hygiene practices, providing supplements for women during pregnancy and for infants after birth, empowering families to grow nutritious foods on household farms, and strengthening community-based health care.
We fight hidden hunger by helping deliver vitamin A, iron, and other critical micronutrients to children and pregnant women. We strengthen health services by training health workers to counsel families on optimal nutrition.
We also fight hidden hunger by supporting partners in countries where we work to fortify staple foods, such as cooking oil and flour, with essential micronutrients.
Our globally recognized “family farming for nutrition” programs help people grow more diverse, nutrient-rich sources of food and make them part of daily diets. These programs also helps establish a more equal role for women within their households by enabling them to sell surplus crops and increase their income.
We also understand that proven solutions are not enough. That is why we are relentless in our commitment to developing new evidence, promising practices, and innovative new tools and approaches that will create greater impact and learning.
Our Key Partnerships
We also engage in partnerships with multilateral organizations, governments, academic institutions, and the private sector to increase our impact and sustainability, optimize learning and innovation, maximize resources, reach those in greatest need, and deepen our influence on policy and practice.