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Humanitarian and development leaders have warned that malnutrition is now a "major global public health threat", with at least 50 million children worldwide suffering from an acute form of the condition.
On World Food Day, those working in the humanitarian sector have joined together to highlight the fact that nearly 50% of all deaths of children under five are driven by malnutrition.
Acute malnutrition has been – and remains – highly treatable and preventable. Yet, despite the existence of life-saving treatment and two decades of work to reach those in need, current strategies reach less than 20% of affected children with care.
Today, we are at a critical crossroads. We can choose to stay the course, leaving an estimated 80% of acutely malnourished children untreated. Or we can transform the system and save millions of lives.
The problem is four-fold:
We see these challenges every day in the countries and communities where we work. Political will and financial investment is urgently needed to address each of these barriers.
We, a group of leading humanitarian and development organizations working in some of the hardest to reach places, are calling on world leaders – from UN officials to Ministries of Health – to accelerate action toward a more effective, efficient and accessible treatment system that leaves no child behind.
This past July, leaders from across the United Nations system announced they would develop a Global Action Plan on Wasting by the end of 2019 with a roadmap to address acute malnutrition.
With less than two months until the UN shares the most comprehensive plan on wasting in recent history, here are our recommendations for what the Global Action Plan (GAP) must include:
And because we all have a responsibility, we stand ready to work together to ensure the Global Action Plan is ambitious, time-bound, and offers concrete steps for addressing the realities of the crisis; to hold leadership accountable to the commitments made; to continue strengthening our programs, strategies, and partnerships that put a premium on expanding access to both curative and preventative services; and to advocate with Ministries of Health and Finance to see these solutions adopted into national health and nutrition action plans and budgets.
Now is the time to turn goodwill into action and to give this neglected health issue the attention and resources it deserves and requires. Some global crises seem insurmountable. But this isn’t one of them. As we stand at this crossroads, we know we cannot stay the course. We must seize the opportunity presented by the GAP to positively disrupt the status quo.
Now is the time to act.