Make a donation

Your browser is not up to date.

If you wish to view the Action Against Hunger website correctly, update your browser.
Find the latest versions of supported browsers listed below.

ACTION CONTRE LA FAIM - CAMEROUN © Christophe Da Silva pour Action contre la Faim

Headline

Health and nutrition

how do we prevent, detect and treat malnutrition?

You cannot talk about hunger without mentioning the 735 million people who are currently experiencing it. We believe that hunger is a disease that carries the name ‘malnutrition’. In the countries where we operate, hunger is much more than the feeling of wanting or even needing to eat. This disease occurs especially in conflict zones, where both adults and children can go several days without eating or have no access to a varied enough diet. It also appears after natural disasters, when access to water, work and healthcare is restricted or even non-existent.

 

ACTION CONTRE LA FAIM - CAMEROUN Cristophe Da Silva pour Action contre la Faim Cameroun

Christophe Da Silva pour Action contre la Faim

ACTION CONTRE LA FAIM - CAMEROUN Dans le Centre de Sante de Mada Kolkoch, Marie Ndarana est adjointe au chef de sante, elle est en charge de la prise en charge des enfants et des femmes enceintes et/ou allaitantes. Elle évoque aussi les barrières d’accès aux soins tant du côté des maris que des pratiques traditionnelles

Christophe Da Silva pour Action contre la Faim

ACTION CONTRE LA FAIM - CAMEROUN Dans le Centre de Sante de Mada Kolkoch, Marie Ndarana est adjointe au chef de sante, elle est en charge de la prise en charge des enfants et des femmes enceintes et/ou allaitantes. Elle évoque aussi les barrières d’accès aux soins tant du côté des maris que des pratiques traditionnelles

Christophe Da Silva pour Action contre la Faim

1/3

Our priority in order to fight against malnutrition effectively is to provide access to health care to as many people as possible. This is why we have established local medical centres. We take care of training volunteers, relatives and health care professionals to detect malnutrition on site, so that patients can be treated at the first signs, rather than when their condition is too critical. If necessary, patients are referred to our medical centres and stabilisation centres, so that they have access to closer monitoring and the family can receive psychological support.

 

 

HOW DO WE FIGHT AGAINST MALNUTRITION?

 

Our medical centres screen for malnutrition in children and breastfeeding mothers, treat it and support them in the whole process. Access to health care – especially in isolated areas – is one of the keys to combating the disease.

Once they arrive, patients (especially children) will undergo an appetite test, so that we can check whether or not they feel hungry and can ingest and digest food.

Depending on the results, patients will then be referred to one of two types of centre. This first type aims to take care of patients suffering from moderate malnutrition: in these cases, their condition is not yet severe and can therefore be treated in the home. The patient’s parents leave with doses of ready-to-use therapeutic food and look after the child at home, before coming back for a consultation and follow-up a few weeks later.

The second type of centre is for treating patients suffering from the most serious form of the disease (severe acute malnutrition) who need to be hospitalised. This situation can be challenging for families when the patient’s relatives work and live far away from the centre or when they need to take care of the rest of the family. In the most serious cases, when the child cannot ingest food, a tube is used to feed them. Food is administered through a small tube, which goes down the throat, until the patient is strong enough to eat more substantial food.

Medical monitoring and psychological care are provided in both centres in order to support patients.

Malnutrition in mothers and children contributes to 45% of deaths of children aged under 5.

 

PREVENTING MALNUTRITION

 

We are not alone in our fight against such a daunting disease. We train women, men, community members, parents and health care staff in the countries where we operate. Awareness-raising is a key part of the fight against hunger and malnutrition. This involves both volunteer training sessions and prevention workshops for communities and families.

Volunteer training means that access to health care can be provided even in the most isolated areas. The volunteers learn to detect the disease and recognise its initial signs. Volunteers examine the patients by looking for oedemas, measuring their height and weighing them.

Thanks to them, health care is increasingly accessible. Through our volunteers, we can detect malnutrition and undernutrition wherever it occurs! They are also involved in changing mentalities in certain remote regions and altering habits so that best practices can be adopted. We rely on them a lot, and in certain communities, it is important to have a representative the community trusts, who speaks the language and is familiar with the local culture. This way, parents have more peace of mind; they are more likely to let volunteers they know examine their child. When volunteers detect a more serious case of malnutrition and the child needs closer monitoring, they refer the patient to our medical centres.

 

WHAT ARE THE CAUSES OF MALNUTRITION ACROSS THE WORLD?

There are many causes of malnutrition. War, climate change, a lack of access to drinking water, poverty and faults in our food systems are all factors that can lead to hunger.

 

CONFLICT

Conflict has direct and indirect impacts on hunger. First of all, access to food, water and health care is impaired during war. It makes food production and distribution chains more fragile and causes food shortages.

In certain contexts, hunger itself is used as a weapon of war against civilian populations. Bombing markets, blocking access to roads, poisoning wells and destroying crops are all ways to starve and subjugate populations.

In countries like Syria, Yemen, the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Central African Republic, Nigeria and South Sudan, hunger is used to kill, just like bombs and bullets.

Conflict also affects populations’ mental health. Trauma associated with war or fleeing from war impacts people’s mental health and may mean they no longer want to feed themselves, which can lead to malnutrition.

 

CLIMATE CHANGE

The increase in extreme weather phenomena (floods, droughts, storms, etc.) has an enormous impact on small-scale farmers and livestock farmers in developing countries. For many, agriculture is their only source of income and food. This is why malnutrition rates are higher in regions hit by extreme weather events, especially as these areas tend to depend on local agriculture.

Droughts, floods and cyclones destroy crops. Food stocks are impacted and the hunger gap – the period after stocks from the previous harvest run out and before the new harvest – gets longer.

 

When harvests are unstable, so are the prices of basic food on international markets, which leads to price variations that are harmful both to producers and to consumers. Climate change is an extra threat to livelihoods and food security in already vulnerable populations.

 

ACCESS TO WATER

According to the WHO, almost 2.1 billion people – 30% of the world’s population – have no access to drinking water in their home. On a global scale, 1 in 2 people have no access to safe sanitation services, while 2 in 5 have nowhere to wash their hands.

Drinking water is key for development, as untreated water can carry diseases like diarrhoea, dysentery and cholera, which, in turn, can lead to malnutrition. These diseases stop the body absorbing nutrients and can be deadly in the worst cases. Among the various causes of malnutrition among children, the consumption of non-potable water and a lack of access to hygiene and sanitation are responsible for half of all cases.

 

INEQUALITIES

Poverty refers to a situation where a person does not have sufficient resources to live a decent life. It hinders human, economic and social development. Poorer families have less spending power and less access to basic necessities like water, health care and food, not to mention education, work and even toilets. For all of these reasons, they are more likely to suffer from hunger.

Malnutrition leads to brain or motor development delays in children under the age of 5, thus exacerbating inequalities in their adult life.

According to the World Bank, around 780 million people are currently living in extreme poverty, mainly in South Asia and Sub-Saharan Africa.

 

FAULTS IN THE GLOBAL FOOD SYSTEM

Farmers in the Global North have the technical and financial means to produce in large quantities. In this industrial agricultural system, farmers sell their products for low prices and export them abroad. This means that, elsewhere, the price of imported products is lower than that of locally grown products. Local agriculture is therefore threatened by cheap, more competitive imported products.

Industrial agricultural corporations then accumulate land in the Global South abandoned by local agriculture, which is weakened by climate phenomena and competition from the North. This way, they make the most of cheap labour in the South. Many of the fruits and vegetables produced there are then exported to richer countries and do not benefit the local population.

 

 

WHAT ARE THE CONSEQUENCES OF MALNUTRITION?

 

Today, 828 million people are suffering from hunger across the world, and every year, 9 million individuals die from the consequences of malnutrition.

The symptoms of malnutrition are varied and wide-reaching and include vitamin deficiencies, a weakened body and immune system, muscle atrophy, stunted growth, and neurological and cognitive developmental delays. People suffering from malnutrition are more susceptible to disease and even death.

This is why early detection of malnutrition is vital, so that quick, effective treatment can be provided. We have established local medical centres in remote, isolated areas in order to provide the most vulnerable with access to health care. Our teams visit villages to screen populations for malnutrition. We train community volunteers so that they can screen vulnerable people in their community and therefore prevent malnutrition. This is a fight we are leading every day, and it is only possible because of your support.

In 2022, we supported 15.6 million people with our nutrition and health programmes.

Stay informed of our latest news