Preventing and Treating Malnutrition
Every 11 seconds a child dies of malnutrition and a lifetime of potential is lost.
Hunger is the greatest threat to a child’s life. Today, as many as 828 million people go to bed hungry every night, obliterating the progress made globally since the early 2000’s, thanks to the ongoing impact of COVID-19, climate crises, and conflicts in Ukraine and around the world. Combined, they make food unaffordable and nutritious food unattainable for far too many families. Children are at greatest risk – their growing bodies deprived of the nutrition they so desperately need to develop, grow, and thrive.
The first 1,000 days are critical
The 1,000-day window between the start of pregnancy and a child’s second birthday is a critical period of rapid physical development. Most healthy babies double their birth weight by 5-6 months and triple as they approach their first birthday. It is also a time of critical brain development — with over a million new neural connections established every second. If an expectant mother or newborn goes without adequate nutrition at this crucial stage, the child may experience irreversible damage to their brains and bodies, limiting their ability to develop, grow, learn, and eventually limiting their ability to earn a living and rise out of poverty.
Luckily there are simple, proven, cost-effective solutions that can prevent malnutrition and bring a child back from the brink, dubbed the “Power 4.”
- Protecting pregnant mothers by ensuring they get the right mix of prenatal vitamins and minerals to keep themselves and their fetuses healthy.
- Supporting breastfeeding mothers. Exclusively breastfeeding a child for the first six months of their life is the best nutrition a mother can provide.
- Providing children under five with the right amount of vitamin A through nutrient-rich foods and supplements to build their immune systems.
- Treating children with acute malnutrition using specialized foods that deliver vital nutrients fast – and before it’s too late.
Change starts at the community level
Helen Keller Intl partners with government ministries of health, communities, and other nonprofit organizations to ensure children at greatest risk are screened, diagnosed, and treated.
Our approach ensures that children are diagnosed early by community healthcare workers to minimize the time and cost of travel distant health center. We train healthcare workers to go door-to-door within their local communities to support and educate expectant and new mothers.
By working within existing healthcare and community systems, we work to build sustainable change so that families have the care they need for the long-term. Last year alone, we:
- Facilitated the distribution of more than 30 million vitamin A capsules to children under 5
- Reached nearly 1.2 million women with breastfeeding support and education
- Last year Helen Keller screened more than 146,000 children for acute malnutrition across four countries.
We can change the future if we respond effectively and powerfully now.